Barbiturates are a group of synthetic drugs that belong to the sedative-hypnotics class. They act on the central nervous system by stimulating the GABA neurotransmitter; this causes depression of the CNS. Barbiturates are sometimes used to reduce anxiety, induce sleep, in seizure disorders, and also in general anesthesia.
Are Barbiturates Addictive?
Barbiturates are highly addictive both physically and psychologically and are a very dangerous class of drug; they have been linked to several deaths. Barbiturates have a very narrow therapeutic index (the ratio between the desired dose and the drug’s toxic dose levels). This is one of the reasons the drug isn’t commonly used anymore.
An article published by the National Institute of Health says:
Barbiturate abuse was popular in the 60s and 70s, but strict guidelines and the advent of newer sedative-hypnotics, like benzodiazepines, have led to a decrease in barbiturate availability. Currently, deaths from drug overdose have become the leading cause of death in the United States for individuals under the age of 50 years, with opioid poisonings topping the list. Sedative-hypnotic agents, as a group, comprise the fifth leading cause of reported fatalities according to the 2012 National Poison Data System Database, with pentobarbital being the most common barbiturate used. (NIH)
Some of the other names of barbiturates are amobarbital, secobarbital, phenobarbital, and things. Barbiturates aren’t a commonly prescribed medication these days, and the availability of illegal barbiturates has declined, so addiction to the drug is uncommon these days. However, it is still possible so being aware of the signs of addiction is important.
Symptoms of Barbiturate Abuse
Barbiturates are commonly used with other drugs, like stimulants, to counteract the symptoms. Since they relax the brain, they produce similar effects as alcohol, pain medications, sleeping pills, and antihistamines.
Just like the effects of alcohol, in smaller doses, barbiturates make a person feel drowsy, intoxicated, and disinhibited. When larger doses of the drug are taken, an individual may stagger, develop slurred speech, and/or be confused. When excessively high doses of barbiturates are taken, the person may go into a coma and stop breathing.
Some of the other signs of barbiturate abuse or addiction may include:
- Mood swings, agitation, and/or irritability
- Depression and/or decreased anxiety
- Reduction of REM sleep
- Slowed breathing and/or pulse
- Low blood pressure and/ or heart rate
- Impaired judgment and/or confusion
- Slowed brain function
- Hallucinations and/or delusions
- Respiratory depression and/or arrest
- Decreased motor control, poor coordination, or lack of coordination
- Slurred speech and/or sluggishness
- Unusual excitement
- Visual problems and/or dilated pupils
- Unable to urinate
These signs and symptoms can vary and have different levels of severity depending on the dose that was taken, the length of time the person has been abusing the drug, and their genetic make-up. Taking barbiturates for a long period can have a devastating effect on an individual, just like all other drugs. Some of the effects of long-term barbiturate abuse or addiction can include:
- Strained relationships and/or possibly divorce
- Memory loss and/or changes in alertness
- Decreased ability to function
- Lack of awareness of their surroundings
- Job loss
- Respiratory depression and/or arrest
- Liver, heart, and/or central nervous system damage
- Engaging in risky behavior
- Coma and/or death
Although uncommon, barbiturate abuse has slowly started to rise again, especially in teenagers and the younger population. Because barbiturates are very addictive and are also very dangerous, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of abuse and addiction. If you are experiencing any of these signs, you may have a problem and need help. If it’s someone you love that is exhibiting any of these signs, don’t be afraid to confront them and try to get them help.
Treatment for Barbiturate Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Recreate Life Counseling offers evidence-based addiction treatment. Our cutting edge addiction treatment will lead you on a road to long-lasting recovery. You don’t have to suffer any longer, just call us for confidential help.