Barbiturates Addiction & Overview
What Are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They’re commonly called sedatives, depressants, sleeping pills, barbs, hypnotics, goofballs, yellow jackets, reds, blues and downers. They’re usually taken orally in pill form or by injection when mixed with water. Less commonly, they’re taken rectally or even smoked. Barbiturates are legal in the US when prescribed by a doctor, but it’s illegal to use them without a prescription.
First synthesized by German researcher Adolph von Baeyer, barbituric acid was initially used in 1903 to treat anxiety, insomnia and agitation, but it quickly fell into disfavor because of its potential for abuse and addiction. Barbiturates range from fast-acting varieties like pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal) to long-acting forms like phenobarbital (Luminal). Effects can last from 2-10 hours, depending on which kind of barbiturate is taken.
What Are Barbiturates Used For?
Doctors use barbiturates as a surgical anesthesia for humans and animals to produce unconsciousness. The long-acting form of the drug is sometimes prescribed as an anticonvulsant medication for seizure disorders and epilepsy. Barbiturates are used to treat insomnia, promote sleep and reduce tension, anxiety, stress and high blood pressure. They can be prescribed for conditions like peptic ulcer, hyperthyroidism, and delirium tremens. Barbiturates are sometimes used to augment the painkilling properties of morphine. They’re also used for euthanasia.
What Do Barbiturates Do?
In low doses, barbiturates initially produce a pleasantly relaxed state of body and mind. There may be mild elation, increased sociability and a sense of well-being, followed by sleepiness. If the user remains awake, there may be fuzzy thinking, impaired judgement, loss of physical coordination and decreased attention span.
Higher doses can cause nausea, vomiting, fainting, and behavior similar to drunkenness, like decreased inhibitions and slurred speech. Users can become accident-prone and emotionally erratic, exhibiting impulsive behavior, irritability and antagonism, followed by deep sleep. “Truth serum” is actually a barbiturate called sodium pentothal. It makes the user more talkative and lowers inhibitions, but it doesn’t necessarily make someone tell the truth
Instead of barbiturates, benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are generally prescribed for stress, anxiety and tension. This is because barbiturates are highly addictive and have a narrow margin of safety. Barbiturates can cause addiction even when taken as prescribed, especially over a long period of time.