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Barbiturates are depressants that produce a wide spectrum of central nervous system depression from mild sedation to coma. They also have been used as sedatives, hypnotics, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants.


Barbiturates were first introduced for medical use in the 1900s, and today, few substances are in medical use.


Barbiturates are classified as ultrashort, short, intermediate and long-acting

Common Street Names

Barbs, Block Busters, Christmas Trees, Goof Balls, Pinks, Red Devils, Reds & Blues, and Yellow Jackets

What do they look like?

Barbiturates come in a variety of multicolored pills and tablets. Users prefer the short-acting and intermediate barbiturates such as Amytal® and Seconal®.

How are they abused?

Barbiturates are abused by swallowing a pill or injecting a liquid form. Barbiturates are generally abused to reduce anxiety, decrease inhibitions, and treat unwanted effects of illicit drugs.

Barbiturates can be extremely dangerous because overdoses can occur easily and lead to death.


Effect on the Mind

Mild euphoria, lack of restraint, relief of anxiety, and sleepiness

Higher doses cause impairment of memory, judgment, and coordination; irritability; and paranoid and suicidal ideation

Tolerance develops quickly and larger doses are then needed to produce the same effect, increasing the danger of an overdose.

Effect on the Body

Barbiturates slow down the central nervous system and cause sleepiness.

Effects of Overdose

Central nervous system depression, decreased respiration, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, decreased urine production, decreased body temperature, coma, and possible death

Which drugs cause similar effects?

Alcohol, benzodiazepines like Valium® and Xanax®, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, Rohypnol®, and GHB

What is their legal status in the United States?

Barbiturates are Schedule II, III, and IV depressants under the Controlled Substances Act.

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