Barbiturate Facts and Addiction Treatment

Effects of Barbiturates Short termBarbiturates denote a large category of drugs that act as depressants on the central nervous system. Depending on their potency, barbiturates can be used in numerous medical procedures and range in application from a minor sedative to a powerful anesthetic.

Barbiturates are unique in that they have a high risk of addiction and overdose but remain one of the most widely produced and prescribed drugs available. According to the Global Information Network About Drugs, the United States produces approximately 300 tons of barbiturates each year. The drugs are most commonly prescribed as sedatives and sleep aids, with more than 19 million prescriptions being written annually.

The ubiquity of barbiturates emphasizes the need for education about these drugs, their dangers and how this form addiction can be treated. As patients get older, their bodies become less effective in flushing barbiturates from their system. As a result, patients become even more vulnerable to accidental overdose and addiction to these drugs as they advance in age.

Commonly Prescribed Barbiturates

In the past, barbiturates were prescribed to treat a wide range of illnesses. While primarily used as a sedative or anti-anxiety treatment, barbiturates have also been prescribed to treat seizures, migraines, and insomnia.

Barbiturates Long term effects

As the highly addictive and dangerous nature of barbiturates came to light, physicians began prescribing other, seemingly safer drugs to treat many of the same health issues. Benzodiazepine medications, in particular, have eclipsed barbiturates the go-to treatment for anxiety and other mental disorders.

That being said, barbiturates are still prescribed in many cases. The most commonly prescribed brands of barbiturates include:

  • Luminal
  • Brevital
  • Seconal
  • Butisol
  • Fiorinal


Though methaqualone, better known by the brand name Quaalude, is not a traditional barbiturate, the drug shares many properties, both positive and negative, with other barbiturates.

A sedative and hypnotic, methaqualone was originally introduced as a muscle relaxant and insomnia treatment. However, methaqualone rapidly gained popularity in the 1970s as a recreational party drug.

The Quaalude brand was discontinued in 1985 due to new findings about methaqualone’s potential addictiveness and toxicity. While the drug is rarely found in the United States, production of methaqualone for recreational use continues abroad. Like traditional barbiturates, the highly addictive nature of methaqualone makes recreational use extremely dangerous.

Short- and Long-Term Effects

Effects of Barbiturate WithdrawalBarbiturates, when prescribed and used properly, have great potential as a sedative, anesthetic and, anti-anxiety medication. However, these substances have a substantial potential for abuse. In fact, many individuals continue to abuse barbiturates for their depressant effects, which are similar to or more intense than those of alcohol.

Common short-term symptoms of barbiturate abuse include:

  • Sense of elation
  • Sense of confusion
  • Feelings of drowsiness
  • Limited coordination
  • Impaired speech
  • Fewer inhibitions
  • Unpredictable mood swings

The long-term effects of barbiturate addiction are especially severe. In fact, the long list of health complications associated with these medications was a large factor in the development of the drugs that would eventually replace barbiturates.

Long-term symptoms of barbiturate addiction include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Kidney failure
  • High risk for bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Unstable emotions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of memory
  • Respiratory problems
  • Limited mental performance
  • Inability to keep a job
  • Disinterest in self-care

Barbiturates Addiction and Treatment

Barbiturates are prescribed far less often than in the past. Thankfully, this means that fewer people are likely to become addicted to the medication. However, this development also means that the general public is less familiar with these drugs and their dangerous reputation.

At The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village, we have watched dozens of individuals turn their lives around after being held hostage by barbiturate addiction. Our admissions counselors are available 24/7 to answer your questions about barbiturates, Quaaludes and how you or a family member can get help. Reach us anytime at (866) 295-6003.

Barbiturate Addiction Recovery Usually Begins with Medically Supervised Detox

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