Barbiturate Overdose in the 2020s- It’s Still a Problem

Barbiturates have been popular since the 1960s but addiction is still a major issue in the U.S.


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Drug addiction is a problem that plagues millions of people worldwide. There are many drugs on the market that cause dependence issues, and nowadays they seem to be more available than ever before.

Barbiturates have been on the market for many years. Even after all this time, though, barbiturate overdose continues to be a problem. Read on to find out more about the drug and what you can do if you or a loved one are dealing with a substance abuse issue.1

What is a Barbiturate?

A barbiturate is a nervous system depressant. It is often prescribed to treat convulsions, insomnia, and anxiety. It can also work as a hypnotic. This substance has been used in general anesthesia and is effective in treating headaches. Barbiturates are available as multi-colored pills and tablets.

Barbiturates were designed as a less addictive alternative to benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines. However, many who use them still develop an addiction.

These drugs first came out in the early 1900s. Several types of barbiturates were available on the market including amobarbital, pentobarbital, butobarbital, pentobarbital, and phenobarbital. They became popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

Although they started as a prescription drug, many used these substances recreationally. Barbiturate overdose was the cause of 12,354 deaths between 1965 and 1970 in New York City alone. Today, barbiturate overdose death rates have gone down, but they are still a problem.

Barbiturate Acid

Also called malonylurea or 6-hydroxyuracil, barbiturate acid is the parent of the barbiturate drug. It is an odorless powder that can be dissolved in water. The acid is not chemically active in and of itself and must be synthesized to work medicinally.

Street Names

There are different types of barbiturates, and each has different street names. Here are some examples:

  • Amobarbital: Blue heavens, downers, blue devils, blue velvet
  • Tuinal: Reds and blues, rainbows, tooies, gorilla pills, double trouble, F-66s
  • Pentobarbital: Yellowjackets, abbots, Mexican yellows, nembies
  • Secobarbital: Redbirds, reds, lilly, red devils, pinks, pink ladies, F-40s, seggy
  • Phenobarbital: Goofballs, purple hearts

Other street names are used for barbiturates in general. These include:

  • Strawberries
  • Red bullets
  • Blue bullets
  • Rainbows
  • Green frog
  • Blue dolls
  • Blue angels
  • Bluebirds
  • Green dragons
  • Pink ladies
  • Marshmallow reds

Legal Status

Barbiturates are classified as Schedule I, II, and IV depressants under the Controlled Substances Act.

Schedule I drugs are defined as drugs with no medical benefits and a high likelihood of abuse. Schedule II drugs have medical benefits but come with a high potential for abuse and dependence. Schedule IV drugs are drugs with a low to moderate likelihood of abuse and dependence.2

The schedule the barbiturate falls into depends on the type of barbiturate it is.

Barbiturate Addiction

People may first become dependent on barbiturates due to the pleasant sensations they provide. They make individuals feel relaxed and uninhibited.

However, after a while, a person will feel a dependence start to form. They will need to take more of the drug to get the same pleasing effects. If they try to stop taking the drug, they will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that make them want to take more. Therefore, many people struggling with barbiturate addiction relapse.

Those who abuse barbiturate may find it on the streets and take it as a pill or inject it in liquid form. Injecting the drug can lead to the spread of diseases like HIV and type two diabetes.

Barbiturate Side Effects

Barbiturate produces side effects including the following:

Tolerance and Dependence

Barbiturates are dangerous because someone can develop a tolerance quickly, meaning they need to take more of the drug to get the same effects. Moreover, there is not a lot of leeway when it comes to a dosage that’s safe and one that causes a barbiturate overdose.

People can form both physical and psychological dependence on the drug. The psychological dependence will make them want to continue experiencing the pleasure the drug brings. Physical dependence means that stopping will produce unwanted symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and insomnia. They will be unable to function normally unless they have the drug in their system.

Signs and Symptoms of Barbiturate Intoxication

A person who is experiencing barbiturate intoxication may exhibit the following symptoms depending on the dosage they take.

A small dose will make the individual feel drowsy and uninhibited. A larger dose will make the person seem as if they are drunk from alcohol. Their speech may be slurred, and they will act confused. A larger dose may result in a barbiturate overdose. The individual may fall into a coma and stop breathing, and in severe cases, they may even die.

Combinations of Barbiturates with Other Drugs

Barbiturates can be even more dangerous if these types of substances are combined with other drugs. There are several drugs that you should avoid combining them with.3 The list is pretty extensive but some of the more well-known ones include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tranquilizers
  • Hypnotics
  • Estrogen
  • Antihistamines
  • Anticoagulants
  • Progesterone
  • Sedatives
  • Steroids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Clonazepam

Barbiturate Overdose

Barbiturate overdose continues to be a major problem worldwide. The drug forms a dependence making someone want to take more, and it is very easy to hit a dangerous dosage limit.

If you know someone who is taking barbiturates, it is vital to familiarize yourself with barbiturate overdose symptoms. These include the following:

  • Inability to rouse the person (coma)
  • Shallow respiration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Death

Barbiturate Overdose Treatment

Not all barbiturate overdose victims die. Barbiturate overdose treatment is available. The following steps may be taken to save a life.

  • If the person is drowsy, awake, and breathing, you may just be able to keep an eye on them to make sure their symptoms don’t get worse.
  • If the person is not breathing, you may use CPR. Medical professionals will put them on a breathing machine until the effects of the drug wear off.
  • Activated charcoal is another barbiturate overdose treatment. It helps remove the drug from a person’s system. This solution may be ingested and will bind to any drugs in the stomach. It can also be placed into a tube that goes directly into the stomach.
  • Most people are admitted into the hospital for monitoring. Treatments are prescribed on a case-by-case basis.

Barbiturate Overdose Death Rate in the United States

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) 405,000 Americans aged twelve and over have used barbiturates and 305,000 of those have misused barbiturates. One of the ten people who take unsafe levels of the drug end up experiencing a barbiturate overdose death.4

How to Treat Barbiturate Addiction

There are many ways to overcome barbiturate addiction, but an inpatient rehab facility may be the most effective. Once checked into a rehab facility, patients are made to go through detox. Detox is a time when they must wait while their body adjusts to being without the drug.


Detox is a difficult time for most patients as they experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that make them want to go back to using. A rehab facility will have a medical provider on hand to make sure patients are as comfortable as possible when going through withdrawal. They will use medications to reduce symptoms and see to it that they don’t relapse.


Next, the patient will go through therapy. Various therapies can be used, and the right rebab facility will work out a plan that is best suited to the patient’s needs. Generally, therapy aims to determine the underlying cause of addiction and treat it at its root. Then the patient is taught healthy coping mechanisms that replace the urge to use.

Once rehab is complete, the patient is set out in the ‘real world’. This can be challenging as the stress and the newfound freedom may cause them to fall back on their old ways. The facility will continue to provide the support they need to make it through these difficult times and maintain sobriety.

Why The PAC Program

The PAC Program provides all the services a patient needs to overcome addiction and takes a three-phase approach that makes us stand out.

The first phase is our residential phase, where patients undergo a customized therapy treatment that helps them understand the causes of addiction with the goal of finding healthy habits to replace dependency. The second phase is the transitional phase. During this time, patients start heading out into the real world while still undergoing thirty hours a week of therapy.

The final phase is the launch phase. This stage involves the patient going back to their work and family knowing they have the support they need when they need it.

Addiction is a terrible disease that robs you of your ability to enjoy life, but help is available. The PAC Program will give you the tools you need to move past your dependence issues. Call us today and take the first step in fighting back.

If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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