Tranquilizers abuse––2: Barbiturates

Tranquilizers abuse––2: Barbiturates

Tranquilizers are highly addictive central nervous system (CNS) depressants which can cause problems such as memory loss, loss of balance, severe allergic reactions, etc. Tranquilizers are a class of drugs used to relax the body and help people sleep. Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotics that are often prescribed to stimulate sleep and reduce anxiety or depression. They act on the CNS by suppressing its activity. Barbiturates enhance the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) by binding to the GABA-receptor/chloride channel.

Barbiturates became popular in the 1960s and ‘70s and were used during World War II to help American soldiers in the South Pacific fight the scorching heat. However, the use of barbiturates has significantly reduced in the recent years mainly due to the development of novel, harmless drug alternatives.

In the late 1950s and ‘60s, some people started taking them in large amounts often overdosing on them and even suffering from health problems due to the increased dependence. This prompted the physicians to stop prescribing them. Due to a significant threat of lethal overdose, barbiturates have now been categorized as controlled drugs. While the drug, when consumed in excess, can lead to both psychological and physical addiction, its use along with other drugs can prove to be fatal.

Barbiturate overdose can be fatal

Overdoses and abuse of barbiturates are more common in developing countries due to its lower cost. The commonly abused barbiturates are:

  • Amobarbital commonly called as downers, blue heavens, blue velvet, blue devils.
  • Pentobarbital, also known as nembies, yellow jackets, abbots, Mexican yellows.
  • Secobarbital, commonly known as reds, red birds, red devils, lilly, F-40s, pinks, pink ladies, seggy.
  • Phenobarbital, called as purple hearts, goofballs.

Identifying risks and symptoms of addiction to barbiturates

In small doses, barbiturates help people feel relaxed, unconstrained, free of anxiety, etc., but when consumed in large quantities, the drug can lead to symptoms such as aggression, fretfulness, body ataxia, paranoia, slurred speech and suicidal thoughts. The common symptoms of a drug overdose or abuse are:

  • lack of coordination
  • headache
  • vomiting and confusion
  • increased risk of falling
  • memory loss

A prolonged use of the drug can lead to tolerance, wherein a person’s response to an addictive drug diminishes owing to its repeated use, and one then needs higher doses to produce the desired effect. The side-effects of chronic drug abuse are:

  • shallow breathing
  • a fast but weak pulse
  • dilated pupil,
  • sweaty skin
  • coma and even death
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • delayed reflexes

However, a sudden discontinuation of the use of barbiturate drugs can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be fatal. Thus, when it comes to addiction, the brain acts like a spring, which implies that when someone stops using drugs all of a sudden, the brain rebounds by producing large quantities of adrenaline which causes withdrawal symptoms. Some of the commonly occurring withdrawal symptoms include confusion, disorientation, restlessness, seizures, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, etc.

Proper medical care in the hospital is typically needed to treat barbiturate withdrawal symptoms. Untreated symptoms can lead to high fever, heart failure and eventually death.

Recovery from drug addiction

A complete multifaceted treatment is generally required to get the state of sobriety, considering physical, emotional, and mental aspects of individual suffering from drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse can be lethal and an increasing number of deaths from prescription drug overdoses prove this fact. It is, therefore, important to take immediate professional help in case someone is abusing prescription drugs. In the series, “Tranquilizers abuse,” we look at a particular class of prescription drugs and how their misuse can affect people.

There are some excellent prescription drug rehab centers in Florida. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-292-3211 or chat online with the executives of the Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline to learn more about the best prescription drug rehabilitation facilities in Florida.

To read the first article of the series, “Tranquilizers abuse,” visit:

1: Benzodiazepines