Although many people view barbiturates as somewhat of a drug of the past, they are still being prescribed, and they are still being abused. Many people stopped using them when word got out of their high potential for abuse, and since then, they have primarily been replaced by another, equally as an addictive type of drug family, benzodiazepines. However, that does not mean that they are out of circulation, or that they have no effect on the overdose rates occurring throughout the country every day.
- In 2001, they were used by 2.8 percent of high school seniors.
- More than 10 million prescriptions are written for barbiturates each year, estimating that 1 in 3 households in the U.S. has a barbiturate.
- 33 percent of drug-related deaths are connected to barbiturates.
- 8 percent of barbiturates produced in the U.S. is illegal.
- 42 percent of deaths linked to barbiturates are classified as a suicide.
What Are Barbiturates Prescribed For?
Many people mix up the drugs that fall into the class of benzodiazepines as those drugs that are actually barbiturates, but there are certain striking differences in the chemical makeup. Overall, the desired, sedative effect that aims towards reducing anxiety is the main reason why many of these medications are still prescribed and still abused.
The main diagnosis that stipulates a prescription are:
- Seizures and epilepsy
4 Most Common Types of Barbiturates:
Phenobarbital is one of the most commonly used and well-known barbiturates still in use today. Primarily, the purpose of Phenobarbital is for the maintenance of seizures, insomnia, and anxiety, and it is often prescribed to recovering addicts and alcoholics in the medical treatment setting as a detox drug.
However, the danger of this drug when administered in detox and as a medication is it’s highly addictive nature. It is often prescribed, to teens and young adults, and can be especially dangerous when combined with other drugs that are either prescribed or used recreationally.
The side effects of Phenobarbital are:
- Drowsiness and Dizziness
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Irritability and Aggression
- Headaches and a “hangover” effect
- Loss of motor control and coordination
This drug is more commonly known by its street name, “Pink Ladies”, and in the medical setting is most commonly used for euthanasia in pets and anesthesia in humans. It is a very common medication in presurgical sedation but has very high addiction rates when used outside of that setting.
This particular barbiturate is not intended for use as an anti-anxiety medication, as it is purported to develop a tolerance in as little as two weeks. Outside of the surgery setting, it is commonly used in hospitals or detox facilities on a short-term basis only, to treat people with insomnia who are ALREADY addicted to barbiturates. Other than that, it is one of the most common drugs used in a “death with dignity” situation. This just shows how potentially dangerous this drug can be when abused.
The side effects of secobarbital are:
- Drowsiness, Dizziness
- Headaches and Nightmares
- Restlessness and Agitation
- Nausea, Vomiting, Constipation, and Diarrhea
- Hallucinations, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and extremities
Also commonly known as Amytal, this barbiturate has other street names including, blue heaven, blue velvet, or a blue devil. Primarily, this medication is used pre-surgery to calm anxiety, as an anticonvulsant, or as a sleep aid. People taking Amytal for any reason are encouraged not to drink, not to take any other sedative medications, and to only take other medications after speaking with a doctor. This drug has also been shown to lower the effectiveness of birth control contraceptives in women.
The side effects of Amobarbital are:
- Low mood and thoughts of suicide
- Irritability and aggression
- Intense mood swings
- Fatigue and Dizziness
- Infection from the injection site
More commonly known as “yellow jackets” or “nembies”, with the brand name of Nembutal, Pentobarbital was originally manufactured in the 1930s as a sleep aid. In low doses, as a medication, it can also help control seizures, reduce anxiety, and is commonly used in the surgery room.
Pentobarbital works by binding to the nerve receptors in the brain that are in control of relaxation. Because of this, people either taking or abusing Nembutal can often experience complications with their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing, which creates a very dangerous situation if a person combines them with other drugs.
Nembutal is another barbiturate that is commonly used as an “end-of-life” medication and is primarily only legal in countries where euthanasia is a legal practice. In the United States and Europe, it is one of the most common drugs used in the euthanasia of animals.
The side effects of Nembutal in humans are:
- Slurred speech
- Poor motor control and loss of coordination
- Mood Swings
- Slowed Thinking and trouble concentrating
In many countries, obtaining most of these barbiturates can be extremely difficult, but there are still hundreds of cases of overdoses every year due to barbiturate abuse. If you are taking a prescribed amount of a barbiturate for sleep, anxiety, or epilepsy, it is absolutely crucial that you speak with a medical provider before taking or experimenting with other medications or drugs. It is also highly suggested that the user does not drink alcohol.
Another common side effect of these barbiturates is that they reduce the effectiveness of female birth control contraceptive methods. It is HIGHLY recommended for women who are not ready to get pregnant, to use an additional form of contraception such as a condom.