Barbiturates Facts


Common types are Amytal (Amobarbital), Fiorinal (Butalbital), Nembutal (Pentobarbital), Donnatal (Phenobarbital), and Seconal (Secobarbital).

Barbs, Barbies,Blue Bullets, Blue Devils, Gorillas, Nembies, Pink Ladies, Red Devils, Sleepers, Amytal, Sodium Amytal, Soneryl, Seconal and Tuinal


Besides appropriate medical uses, they are also diverted as drugs of abuse, either by themselves or mixed with other drugs. Street names for barbiturates include downers, blue heavens, yellow jackets, purple hearts, reds, and rainbows.

You can look up the Medication Guide on the FDA website for the specific drug you are taking to see the precautions for that medication.

Barbiturates are synthetic drugs which used to be regularly prescribed for anxiety, depression and insomnia. They have now almost entirely been replaced by Benzodiazepines This was partly due to their ability to cause dependence and also because of the small difference between a normal dose and an overdose.

Barbiturates used to be a regular feature of the UK drugs scene but because there is very little prescribing and no illicitly made varieties, little is seen of them these days.


Common types are Amytal (Amobarbital), Fiorinal (Butalbital), Nembutal (Pentobarbital), Donnatal (Phenobarbital), and Seconal (Secobarbital).

How Long Barbiturates Affect You

Because Barbiturates come in many different formulations, they vary quite a bit in how long they stay in your system. Barbiturates come in short-acting and intermediate-acting formulations. Amobarbital and Butalbital are intermediate-acting while Pentobarbital and Secobarbital are short-acting. This influences how long they stay in your system. The shorter-acting varieties have a short half-life and are eliminated from the body faster. Discuss the time frames of the specific drug with your doctor.

There are many other medications and substances that can change how barbiturates affect you. You need to have a full list to give to your doctor so your dosage can be adjusted. Don't start taking anything new, or stop taking anything, without discussing it with your doctor. The list is long and includes medications for anxiety, depression, pain, asthma, colds, or allergies, blood thinners, hormone replacement therapy, oral steroids, and any sleeping pills.

Do not drink alcohol while taking barbiturates until your doctor has said it is allowable. There is a large danger of overdose when you drink alcohol while any barbiturates are still in your system.

When taking a prescription of a barbiturate such as phenobarbital, do not suddenly stop taking it or you may go through withdrawal. It is important that you work with your doctor for an appropriate dosing schedule if the medication is going to be discontinued.


Barbiturates are sedative drugs which slow down the central nervous system in a similar way to alcohol. A small dose will make people feel relaxed, sociable and good humoured. With larger doses hostility and anxiety are common effects and slurred speech, loss of co-ordination and difficulty staying awake may follow. Falling over and accidents become more likely.

There is a high risk of overdose because the lethal dose is quite close to the ‘normal’ dose level. 10 tablets may be fatal and this risk is greater if barbiturate use is combined with use of other downer drugs such as Alcohol, Heroin or Tranquillizers.

Injected into a vein barbiturates produce an almost immediate feeling of warmth and drowsiness. Besides the usual hazards of injecting (Hepatitis, HIV etc.) Barbiturate injectors run an increased risk of overdose, gangrene and skin abscesses.

Tolerance and physical dependence develop with regular use. Withdrawal from regular use may result in irritability, anxiety, inability to sleep, faintness and nausea, twitching and occasionally convulsions. After very high doses and regular use, severe withdrawal symptoms are likely including seizures, low blood pressure, delirium and hallucinations. Sudden withdrawal from high doses can be fatal.

Heavy users are also liable to bronchitis and pneumonia (because the cough reflex is suppressed) and hypothermia.

Regular use of barbiturates in the later stages of pregnancy can result in withdrawal symptoms in new born babies.

Symptoms of barbiturate intoxication and overdose can include:

  • Altered level of consciousness
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Drosiness or Coma 
  • Faulty judgment
  • Incoordination
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowness of speech
  • Sluggishness
  • Slurred speech
  • Staggering

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