One of the older classes of drugs, barbiturates are used for the treatment of insomnia, headaches, muscle cramping, and seizures as well as being a pre-operative sedative. Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants that affect the ability of the body’s nerves to communicate with one another. Some examples of barbiturates include Seconal, Donnatal, Nembutal, Fortabs, Fiorinal with Codeine, Ascomp, Butisol Sodium, Amytal Sodium, Belladonna, Esgic, and Fioricet. These drugs are available as injections, tablets, capsules, or oral liquids, depending on which is being used.
When used properly under a health care provider’s supervision, these barbiturates are considered to be highly effective for managing symptoms of anxiety and sleeplessness. However, as with any drug, there can be abuse - and this group is known for its addiction potential.
People who use barbiturates recreationally are typically looking for something that will help sedate them and possibly to even lower inhibitions. They describe having a feeling of tranquility and better overall well-being. These drugs initially induce a state-of-being similar to being drunk, but the condition can progress to one of total relaxation - sometimes to the point of losing one’s life. Individuals who abuse prescription opiates have been shown to seek out barbiturates if they are out of opiates or to give a dose of heroin more kick.
Effects of Barbiturates
Barbiturates’ effects are broad, as they act on the body both mentally and physically. This combination occurs because these drugs work on the central nervous system, slowing down both cognitive and motor processes. Effects of barbiturates use can include any of the following individually, but most often in conjunction with each other, as the central nervous system is the source of control for all functions of the human body.
At issue are the barbiturates’ side effects. Since barbiturates produce a sense of calm and drowsiness, someone experiencing any of the listed side effects post-use may have a lack of concern about them. They may not act on those concerns or seek assistance from somebody who can help. Additionally, the sedated user can sometimes become confused about how much of the drug they have consumed, or when the last time of use was. This can lead to an unintentional overdose with the possibility of lethal consequences. A final issue for those who misuse barbiturates is that, because the drugs affect the body’s normal ability to breathe, they are then at greater risk of developing pneumonia or bronchitis.
For some who have experienced long-term use of barbiturates, their tolerance to the drug is increased as the effectiveness seems to be reduced, leading them to self-increase their dosage. This often leads to “doctor shopping” where they seek out prescriptions from multiple health care providers to gain access to more quantities (or higher doses) of the drug.
Coming Off Barbiturates
Users usually notice the first signs of withdrawal within 24 hours of the last dose. Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms can include insomnia, anxiety, delirium, or tremors. Heavy users have even been known to have seizures when attempting to stop using barbiturates.
For a person who wishes to stop barbiturate misuse, medical supervision or detox in a managed detox facility is recommended, as this is not an easy thing to accomplish alone.
I'm April Bailey, a freelance writer and editor for hire who has been writing about various topics for many years. Most of my early print work was destroyed in a major house fire. Luckily, I was able to pull some copies from an old PC and have posted them here. Other items on this blog reflect my current articles and blog posts written for online publications and copied here so I never lose my work again!