Barbiturates refer to substances that depress the central nervous system. Barbiturates can lead to anxiety, low blood pressure and a reduced heart rate in low doses. In high doses, this drug can lead to sedation, coma and even death. There are many different barbiturates. The primary difference among them is how long their effects last. The effects of some of the long-acting drugs may last up to 2 days. Others are very short acting. Their effects last only a few minutes.
Barbiturates were first used in medicine in the early 1900s and became popular in the 1960s and 1970s as treatment for anxiety, insomnia, or seizure disorders. With the popularity of the drug in the medical population, barbiturates as drugs of abuse evolved as well. Barbiturates were abused to reduce anxiety, decrease inhibitions, and treat unwanted effects of illicit drugs. It can be extremely dangerous because the correct dose is difficult to predict.
Barbiturate use and abuse has declined dramatically since the 1970s, mainly because a safer group of sedative-hypnotics called benzodiazepines are being prescribed. Benzodiazepine use has largely replaced this drug in the medical profession, with the exception of a few specific indications. Doctors are prescribing barbiturates less, and the illegal use of the drug has also substantially declined, although barbiturate abuse among teenagers may be on the rise compared with the early 1990s. Addiction to the drug, however, is uncommon today.
The drug can be injected into the veins or muscles, but they are usually taken in pill form. The street names of commonly abused barbiturates describe the desired effect of the drug or the color and markings on the actual pill.
Short term effects
Barbiturates enhance and amplify the activities of GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), one of the brain’s primary neurotrasmitters. When activated by the drug, GABA shuts off large portions of the brain, producing sedative, relaxing effects.
Recreational doses produce similar effects to alcohol intoxication:
- slurred speech
- unusual excitement
- dizziness, confusion
- impaired judgment
- decreased motor control
- respiratory arrest which can lead to death.
Barbiturates and alcohol have similar effects. If someone intoxicated by alcohol takes barbiturates, the drunkenness will deepen as if more alcohol had been swallowed. Pharmaceutical effects of alcohol alone can kill a person who overdoses, and adding barbiturates can transform a session of social drinking into a fatal one. More than one person has died by taking barbiturate sleeping pills with alcohol instead of water.
Long term Barbiturates effects
Once addicted, a user of barbiturates will often seek out the drug to obtain the same kind of high as achieved before. However, doing this requires more and more of the drug. And this is where things get dangerous, because the higher the dose of the the drug you take, the more likely it is that you will overdose.
Unfortunately, abuse of this substance could lead to respiratory arrest, one of the primary causes of death in barbiturate abusers. Overdose symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, drowsiness, and fatigue and may even result in coma or death. If the drug is stopped suddenly, there is a high risk for withdrawal symptoms, which are very uncomfortable and even painful. Symptoms of withdrawal or abstinence include tremors, difficulty sleeping, and agitation. These symptoms can become worse, resulting in life-threatening symptoms, including hallucinations, high temperature, and seizures.