Barbiturates, often referred to as “downers”, are drugs that help a person sleep. These are sedative-hypnotics that decrease anxiety and produce sleep-inducing effects. Because they are sedatives, barbiturates can be incredibly dangerous, leading to coma or death. They are also highly addictive- just a small dose could cause someone to become addicted. Barbiturates were most commonly used in the 1970’s, and are not as heavily used now because they have been replaced with benzodiazepines, considered a safer group of sedative-hypnotics.

Barbiturates are addictive because they activate an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA. Increasing the activity of this chemical depresses the central nervous system leading the person to feel relaxed and sleepy. Barbiturates can be consumed via injection of the veins or muscles, but are most often taken in pill form. The effects of various barbiturates varies, as some last for a very short time and others last for up to 2 days after consumption. Some of the common barbiturates are: Luminal, Brevital, Seconal, Butisol, and Fiorinal. Many people who take these drugs take them to feel similar effects to that of alcohol. When taken, people often feel relaxed, happy, more talkative, and less inhibited.

Signs of intoxication are increased talkativeness, elation, impaired judgment, emotional fluctuations, sedation, slurred speech, lack of coordination, confusion, and more. There are many dangerous effects that barbiturate abuse and addiction can have on the body. Physical effects include changes in blood pressure, increased sensitivity to both pain and sound, breathing difficulties, increased risk of kidney failure, sexual dysfunction, and more. Mental health issues often consist of anxiety, restlessness, panic, emotional instability, insomnia, hallucinations, depression, and others. Overall, people who are addicted to this drug often lose interest in hobbies and responsibilities, have strained relationships, neglect self-care, and experience occupational issues or job loss.

Treatment for barbiturate addiction typically involves a form of detoxification, residential treatment, and aftercare. If you or a loved one is abusing or is addicted to barbiturates, please speak to a health care professional as soon as possible. A doctor can conduct a health assessment to determine your history, use of barbiturates, severity of addiction, and more. From there, they can recommend you to a treatment facility where you can receive round-the-clock support if needed. By seeking help, you can overcome your addiction and work through your key issues in a healthy manner. Psychotherapy is another great tool that you can use to begin working through your problems.


Recovery is yours when you start to do the work. At a treatment facility in the New Vista Behavioral Health family, you will be supported with staff and programming held to higher standards, providing exceptional care for better outcomes. Life is yours for living. Start making a change today by calling: 888-316-3665

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