Understanding Barbiturates and The Dangers Associated With Them

Do you know what a barbiturate really is? The definition of barbiturate is a drug that acts as a depressant for the nervous system. The effects of a barbiturate go from a mild sedation to a total anesthesia. Barbiturates are also effective when used as anticonvulsants, anxiolytics and hypnotics. When used in a medical setting or under medical supervision, a barbiturate is typically safe and effective for the purpose it was prescribed. When used as a recreational drug, barbiturates have an addictive potential.

Someone who is using a relatively low dose of a barbiturate will appear intoxicated or drunk. As with someone who is drunk, a person who is abusing a barbiturate will present as uncoordinated, sluggish, have difficulty thinking and have slurred speech. Over time, the barbiturate abuser usually needs to increase the dosage to achieve the same results. They are building up a tolerance to the drug. Long term use of barbiturates can lead to decreased functioning and alertness. It can also lead to irritability and memory loss. An overdose can cause decreased breathing function and even death. It is estimated that 1 in 10 who have a barbiturate overdose will die. The death is usually caused from lung or heart problems.

Upon noticing someone with barbiturate overdose symptoms, it is imperative to call 9-1-1 for help. It is not uncommon for barbiturate users to mix various drugs together for their “high”. Medical responders are able to administer Narcan if an opiate was part of the mix. This drug rapidly restores consciousness and breathing. An antidote is not available for this type of overdose. At times, all that is necessary is breathing support until the drug exits the body.


N.A. “Barbiturate.” Wikipedia (Website). (2015).

N.A. “Barbiturate Intoxication and Overdose.” Nlm.nih.gov (Website). (2015).
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