We all want to relax, but sadly many people turn to barbiturate abuse to fill that need. If you’ve struggled with anxiety, sleep issues, headaches or a brain injury and have been prescribed this drug, here’s what you need to know so you can avoid a dangerous addiction.

What are barbiturates?

Barbiturates are depressant drugs, meaning they slow down the central nervous system. This happens because barbiturates release Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GAMA) in the brain, causing a sedative effect and blocking neurotransmitters. This drug normally comes in a pill form or is injected as a liquid.

There are some legitimate medical uses for barbiturates, although use is no longer as common as it was in the early and mid-1900s. Barbiturates are used for anxiety, anesthesia, tension headaches and traumatic brain injuries. In very rare cases, barbiturates are used to help people who have sleep problems.

Barbiturates tend to have severe effects and are highly addictive. This drug is generally abused by people who are hoping to decrease anxiety, relax, decrease inhibitions or reduce the negative effects of other drugs according to the Food and Drug Administration.

What are barbiturate effects?

Barbiturates have effects similar to other depressants. They results can vary based on—amount of the substance consumed, an individual’s metabolism, other drugs simultaneous taken, the quality of the substance (whether it has been cut with other drugs), the amount of food consumed and the intensity of an addiction.

Here are some of the common effects of barbiturates:

  • Euphoric feeling
  • Relaxation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Decrease in anxiety
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory problems
  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in sleep
  • Skin rash
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Hallucinations
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Overdose

While barbiturates do have approved medical purposes, they can also be harmful, even when taken in accordance with a doctor’s orders. If you experience negative effects from your prescription, be sure to talk with your doctor.

What’s the difference between barbiturates vs benzodiazepines?

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are often confused, perhaps because people tend to confuse their names and they have similar effects. It may be helpful to look at a list of some of the most common barbiturates vs benzodiazepines so you can separate individual drugs.


  • Amytal
  • Seconal
  • Mebaral
  • Luminal


  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin

There are other forms of these drugs, but these are the most common.

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are both depressants, meaning they suppress central nervous system functioning and create similar calming effects. While they may both decrease anxiety, barbiturates have been used much less frequently in the past few decades.

They are also classified differently by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Benzodiazepines are a Schedule IV drug, while barbiturates are also Schedule II and III. This classification system designates a drug’s potential for abuse, with higher schedules meaning a lower dependency potential. 

Thus, barbiturates are more addictive and more dangerous than benzodiazepines. This is the main difference between these two substances. If you are struggling with anxiety or a sleep disorder, you’re much more likely to be prescribed a benzodiazepine.

How will I know if I’m addicted to barbiturates?

Like most other substances, there are several notable hallmarks of barbiturate addiction. Here are signs to look for in yourself or a loved one:

  • Thoughts about the drug are all-consuming
  • You have cravings for the substance
  • You have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have access to barbiturates
  • You struggle to maintain your social life due to addiction
  • You have trouble performing in work or school
  • Daily tasks become too difficult to complete due to drug use
  • Addiction dulls your ability to enjoy things you previously did
  • You need increasing amounts of the drug to feel the same effect
  • Your behavior becomes increasingly risky or erratic as the drugs impact your mood

Addiction to depressants is a serious matter. Waiting for professional intervention could cost you your life. If these signs of barbiturate addiction resonate with you, get help today.

How is addiction to depressants treated?

Whether you’ve stumbled into an addiction to benzodiazepines or barbiturates, the treatment is similar, although the process of detox and recovery will vary for each person. Addiction to depressants is treated in a medical detox facility, then generally by a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Depressants can be detected in the body through urine or blood for up to 14 days. The detox process may take several days or up to two weeks. Most programs estimate that between 10 and 14 days you will complete detox and continue to the next level of treatment, which is generally inpatient or intensive outpatient care.

Where can I get treatment for barbiturates?

Silvermist Recovery can offer you the comfort and care you need as you step out of barbiturate addiction and into a life free from drugs. Highly individualized treatment and compassionate staff can make all the difference in a successful recovery. Get in touch with us today.