Barbiturates, also known as “barbs” and “goof balls,” are prescription medications that belong to a class of drugs called depressants. There are different varieties of barbiturates, but they all have sedative effects causing feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. However, these drugs are dangerous and have a high risk for tolerance, dependence, and overdose. While low doses of the drug may make users seem intoxicated, the difference between a safe dose and a fatal one is very small. Continue reading to learn about signs of addiction, long-term effects, and treatment options.

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are medications that produce a wide spectrum of depressive effects on the central nervous system. They are most commonly prescribed to treat anxietyinsomnia, and seizure disorders, but can be easily misused by taking more than indicated by a doctor. Barbiturates have a very high potential for physical and psychological addiction. They have a depressant effect on the brain and provide feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and euphoria. However, barbiturate use can also cause adverse effects that can seriously harm one’s health.

Which Barbiturates Are Most Commonly Abused?

The most commonly known and abused barbiturates are:

  • Amytal Sodium
  • Busitol Sodium
  • Luminal
  • Nembutal Sodium
  • Phenobarbital
  • Seconal Sodium

What Are Common Street Names for Barbiturates?

Some popular names for barbiturates include:

  • Barbs
  • Block busters
  • Christmas trees
  • Goof balls
  • Pinks
  • Red devils
  • Reds & blues
  • Yellow jackets

What Do Barbiturates Look Like?

Barbiturates are available in a variety of multicolored pills and tablets and in liquid form.

How Are Barbiturates Used?

Barbiturates are used by swallowing a pill or injecting a liquid form.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Barbiturates?

Barbiturates reduce anxiety and inhibitions and counteract some of the undesirable side effects of illicit drugs. Some individuals are drawn to them because they induce mild euphoria and sleepiness. They may have a relaxing effect in the short term but are dangerous in higher doses. In the short term, barbiturates can cause the following effects:

  • Relaxation and euphoria
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired judgment
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination

When taken orally, the effects of barbiturates generally begin within 30 minutes and last from 4-16 hours. There are many types of barbiturates, and the length of their effects can vary depending on the class of barbiturate and the individual using it.

Why Are Barbiturates Harmful?

Barbiturates harm the mind and body when used in larger quantities. Misuse can lead to short-temperedness, memory loss, lack of coordination, impaired decision-making abilities, and even suicidal thoughts. When mixed with other depressants such as alcohol, barbiturate use can be deadly. They pose a greater threat to the body and the mind when used over longer stretches of time.

Barbiturates are also dangerous because the amount required to achieve their effects varies greatly from person to person. The same dosage that can give one individual feelings of sleepiness and relaxation can be toxic to someone else.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Barbiturate Abuse?

Repeated barbiturate misuse can lead to addiction and various health problems, including:

  • Delirium
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Liver damage
  • Chronic sleep problems

Users who abuse barbiturates frequently are likely to develop a tolerance to the drug. This means they will require larger doses to achieve the same effect. The risk of dependence is increased for users who consume barbiturates regularly.

What Are the Signs of Barbiturate Addiction?

Prolonged abuse of barbiturates can make users neurologically dependent on the drug. Barbiturate addiction can lead to drastic changes, such as:

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Sluggishness
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased motor control
  • Behaving recklessly

Physical Signs

  • Dizziness
  • Slow breathing
  • Inability to urinate
  • Respiratory depression
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Kidney dysfunction

What Does a Barbiturate Overdose Look Like?

Taking an excessive number of pills or combining them with alcohol or other drugs can lead to an overdose. Alcohol and opioids are particularly dangerous substances to mix with barbiturates. Due to the lack of coordination experienced during an overdose, head injuries are particularly common. Symptoms of a barbiturate overdose include:

  • Memory loss
  • Low heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Coordination issues
  • Irritability
  • Clouded thinking
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Impaired judgement

Because barbiturates act as central nervous system depressants, they can suppress breathing and gag reflexes, which can lead to deadly health complications. These can include aspiration of food or other particles into the lungs, pneumonia, and severe muscle damage. Coma and death are also possible. Individuals who overdose require immediate medical attention.

How Is Barbiturate Addiction Treated?

Because barbiturates are physically addictive, individuals must go through a medically-monitored detox before they can truly address the psychological aspect of their addiction. As barbiturates leave the body, individuals face psychological and physical distress, so it is imperative to detox in the presence of a qualified medical professional. When the body rids itself of toxins, dangerous withdrawal symptoms can occur. Unmanaged symptoms can lead to complications such as hyperthermia and circulatory failure, which can be deadly. Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Delirium or hallucinations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Anxiety and violent behavior

While detox addresses physical addiction, it is important that individuals also confront the drug’s psychological and behavioral impact. Inpatient, residential programs and outpatient programs help individuals stay substance-free while providing them with the tools and education to prevent relapse and relearn healthy habits.

Supplementing traditional treatment offerings with wellness practices can help individuals better understand addiction and relearn healthy behaviors necessary for long-term, sustainable recovery. Those recovering from barbiturate addiction can benefit from different therapeutic activities. Barbiturate users who became dependent on the drug as a cure for their insomnia may find value in sleep education, which can help them learn proper sleep habits. Individuals who took barbiturates to offset stress can replace their use with Writing Through Recovery, which encourages them to identify triggers and address the root of their anxiety. Another alternative to calm a hyperactive mind is meditation, which improves focus and guides individuals into finding mental and emotional balance.

Learn about additional holistic therapies by visiting our Wellness page.

One out of ten barbiturate-related overdoses result in death. Don’t take a chance on your life. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drugs, reach out for help. Our compassionate team of experts is here to help.