Are Barbiturates Addictive?

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Barbiturates carry a high risk of abuse and addiction due to the euphoria and feeling of relaxation they provide. They also have a high potential for physical dependence if used for an extended amount of time. This is because the body develops tolerance to the drug over time, and severe withdrawal symptoms are inevitable when suddenly stopping to take the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness

Due to the risks they carry, Barbiturates are classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that the drug can only be obtained via prescription from a medical professional. However, barbiturates are still abused - either by being taken in larger doses than prescribed, being used recreationally, or being mixed with alcohol or other substances. 

What are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are sedative hypnotic drugs, derived from barbituric acid, which act as central nervous system depressants. Barbiturates are among the most widely used drugs in the treatment of:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Migraines

They work by increasing the activity of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) in the brain, producing calming effects. They are similar to benzodiazepines as they induce relaxation, drowsiness and sedation, but they are a lot more toxic than the average benzo if one overdoses. Barbiturates have a very narrow therapeutic margin, which means that the difference between a calming/ enjoyable dose and a fatal one, is rather small.

Because of the dangers involved in using Barbiturates, the number of prescriptions written for this drug has decreased significantly over the years.

Barbiturate Street Names

To avoid getting into trouble with the authorities over selling and buying the drug on illegal terms, people refer to Barbiturate using different names. These street titles include:

  • Downers
  • Block Busters
  • Christmas Trees
  • Goof Balls
  • Pinks
  • Red Devils
  • Reds & Blues
  • Yellow Jackets

FDA-approved Barbiturates include:

  • Phenobarbital
  • Methohexital
  • Butalbital
  • Pentobarbital
  • Primidone
  • Amobarbital

Barbiturates Statistics

Barbiturates are now less commonly used due to their potential for abuse and addiction; however, they can be prescribed for some people, especially for patients that suffer from seizure disorders. Reports have shown the following:

  • About 9% of Americans abuse Barbiturates at some point in their lives.
  • Barbiturate addiction usually co-occurs with abuse of another substance or mental health condition.
  • Women are more likely to receive a prescription for Barbiturates than
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2018, 32,000 Americans claimed to have misused Barbiturates.

Barbiturate Addiction and Abuse

Since the 1970’s, the use of Barbiturates has significantly decreased as doctors are writing fewer and fewer prescriptions. This is because there are much safer medications out there with fewer risks and side effects, such as Benzodiazepines.

If you’ve been prescribed Barbiturates by a doctor, consider that Barbiturates are highly addictive and carry real risks of abuse. Moreover, it’s very difficult to determine the correct dose.; even a slight overdose can mean coma or death.

Barbiturate abuse can trigger physical and psychological health complications, and can be carried out in the following ways:

  • Swallowing a pill
  • Injecting in liquid form
  • Crushing and snorting 

Signs and Symptoms of Barbiturate Abuse

If you notice any of the following symptoms in yourself or someone around you, it’s possible that Barbiturate abuse is to blame.

Short-Term Effects of Barbiturates include:

  • Confusion
  • Euphoria
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Impaired coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Withdrawal symptoms after cutting down use of the drug
  • Intoxication
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

Someone who abuses Barbiturates continuously will display symptoms similar to those of alcohol intoxication. Serious physical, mental and social issues may arise, and only professional intervention can help to overcome these symptoms.

The long-term effects of Barbiturates include:


  • Overdose
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycle in women
  • Increased sensitivity to sound and pain
  • Potential liver and kidney issues
  • Physical dependence on the drug
  • Chronic breathing problems, that can lead to bronchitis
  • Loss of control over bodily movements
  • Cardiac issues
  • Coma or death


  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations


  • Loss of interest in pastimes and everyday tasks
  • Social issues
  • Lack of self-care

Barbiturates Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one are suffering from barbiturates addiction, know that recovery is possible at Avenues Recovery Center. Call us today to begin your journey towards a drug-free life, where relationships, health and true inner happiness take the place of chaos and confusion.

At Avenues, you can detox in our inpatient rehab, surrounded by caring, empathetic and professional staff. Here, withdrawal symptoms can be managed in a calm and clean environment, with 24/7 medical supervision and intervention.

You could then choose between a number of various effective therapies that will help you dig to the root of your substance misuse. Our therapists genuinely care about every single client, and are there to guide and support you all the way home.

When you feel ready to embrace a better life, contact us. A bright future awaits.

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