Barbiturates Addiction

Like most other sedatives, barbiturates have a high potential for addiction. Users can crave the relaxing effects they produce, and this can lead to a deadly cycle that leaves you isolated and with a dependency. Even though the use of barbiturates has declined since the 1970s, barbiturates addiction is still very real. Recent studies show that high school users are starting to use them more and more. Almost 400 people died from barbiturates overdoses in 2013.

Harmony Ridge can help treat your barbiturates addiction with comprehensive treatment.

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are medications classified as “sedative-hypnotics,” which are depressants. These are known for decreasing anxiety and inducing sleep in users. Although benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium have largely replaced barbiturates for many conditions, they’re still commonly used to treat the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches, anxiety, and tension
  • Seizure disorders

As opposed to stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, which speed up your body’s functions, barbiturates slow these down. This is why they generally have the nickname “downers.” People who use barbiturates usually take them to mitigate the effects of stimulants.

Barbiturates became popular in the 1960s and 1970s as painkillers, and people eventually used them as recreational drugs. Although at one point there were more than 2,500 variations of barbiturates, there are now only about 10 different varieties that medical professionals prescribe.

How Are Barbiturates Used?

Barbiturates are usually taken in pill form, but they can also be injected into muscles or veins. Different barbiturates have street names attached to them based on the markings and colors of each pill, as well as the drug’s effect on the user.

About 452,000 people used barbiturates in 2015, compared to almost 30 million benzodiazepine users. This shows the major decline in people using the former drug.

How Do Barbiturates Affect the Brain?

As sedative-hypnotics, barbiturates slow down the central nervous system, which includes the brain. By reducing nerve activity, they induce feelings of relaxation, and as a result, they reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

Types of Barbiturates

Although all barbiturates virtually serve the same purpose, each one is slightly different. Here is a list of popular barbiturates and their slang names, both discontinued and not.

  • Amobarbital (also known as blue heaven, downers, blue devils, blue velvet): This is available as an injection. A white crystalline powder, it has a slightly bitter taste and no smell. Sodium amobarbital has also been used as a truth serum.
  • Mephobarbital: This comes in a tablet form and is an anticonvulsant used for seizures.
  • Pentobarbital (yellow jackets, Mexican yellows, nembies, abbots): Available as an injection. This is known in the U.S. as Nembutal, although this was discontinued in 1999. It’s been used for executing convicted criminals. You can easily overdose on pentobarbital since it causes respiratory arrest.
  • Phenobarbital (goof balls, purple hearts): This is commonly used for controlling seizures in young children. It can be injected or taken by mouth. Created in 1912, it’s the oldest anti-seizure medication that’s still used today. However, it’s also known to increase the risk of suicide in users.
  • Secobarbital (reds, red devils, red birds, pinks, pink ladies, seggy, lilly, F-40s): This is commonly known as a sleeping pill. As Seconal, secobarbital is a highly abused barbiturate
  • Tuinal (rainbows, tooies, double trouble, reds and blues, F-66s, gorilla pills): Discontinued in the late 1990s, it was largely replaced by benzodiazepines.

Side Effects of Barbiturates

Using barbiturates can lead to some mild side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Shallow or slowed breathing
  • Poor memory and attention

Why Are Barbiturates Addictive?

The calming effects of barbiturates and other sedatives can cause users to develop a dependence on them. This means that they’ll need higher and more frequent doses to achieve a similar effect over time. Once you have a tolerance to barbiturates, you’re in danger of forming an addiction to them. Soon you’ll need them just to get out of bed in the morning.

Many celebrities suffered from barbiturates addiction or died from a barbiturate overdose in the 1960s and 1970s. These include Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, and Edie Sedgewick.

Signs and Symptoms of Barbiturates Addiction

Just because a doctor prescribes you barbiturates doesn’t mean you can’t become addicted to them.

Signs of barbiturates addiction include:

  • Using barbiturates more than you planned
  • Taking more than you need to
  • Combining barbiturates with other drugs like alcohol
  • Crushing and snorting barbiturate pills for consumption
  • Needing more barbiturates to achieve the same effect

Symptoms of barbiturates addiction include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Low inhibition
  • Intoxication
  • Staggering
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Change in activities or interests
  • Not meeting expectations or responsibilities at work or school

People who abuse barbiturates get “high” in a way that’s almost like being drunk.

Combining Barbiturates with Other Drugs

A good portion of people who use barbiturates also combine them with other substances, especially alcohol. Many celebrities who abused barbiturates in the 1960s and 1970s  Users will do this to achieve the following:

  • Enhance a barbiturate’s euphoric effects: When you combine barbiturates with alcohol or benzodiazepines, the high is intensified, but this can be dangerous for your body. You increase your chances of overdose and death.
  • Limit the effects of stimulants. Taking barbiturates with stimulants like methamphetamine can slow down their effects and ease the “comedown.”
  • Increase the drug’s anti-anxiety effects: It’s common for people to self-medicate with barbiturates and benzodiazepines if they have undiagnosed anxiety disorders. This might seem like an easy way to relieve your feelings, but this is only temporary. Self-medicating isn’t healthy, and you could hurt yourself if you don’t know the proper amount of medication to take.

Treatment for Barbiturates Addiction

At Harmony Ridge, we understand that barbiturates addiction treatment is a complex condition that must be treated carefully. We’ll take you through several steps to ensure that you achieve a complete recovery from your substance abuse. Our licensed staff is always on hand to answer any questions you have during the process.

You can choose from any one of our following treatment programs:

Depending on the severity of your barbiturate addiction, we’ll place you in a program that will provide you with an optimum amount of care.


Medical detox involves the abrupt stop of barbiturates from going into your system while under the supervision of medical professionals. If you’re addicted to barbiturates, you could go into withdrawal when you’re in detox. Many times our licensed staff will put you on medication that will help alleviate any painful symptoms you experience while in our care.

Detoxing from barbiturates addiction specifically can take about 14 days. We strongly advise that you don’t detox “cold turkey” from home since this could be dangerous and even fatal.

Before you enter medical detox, one of our team members will perform an evaluation and ask you a series of questions. We’ll examine your specific addiction, how long you’ve used barbiturates, and whether you’ve combined them with any other drugs.


When recovering from barbiturates addiction, therapy can be a huge help to you or your loved one. Therapy will change the way you think about harmful substances, since they’ve changed your brain chemistry and how you function every day. Even if detox vanquishes your physical dependence, your state of mind will still be affected by barbiturate addiction.

We take a few different approaches to therapy when you enroll in our treatment center.

  • Individual therapy: One-on-one sessions with a therapist can provide you with much insight into your addiction and what caused it. Each time you meet, you’ll discuss any issues from your past, like trauma or abuse, that led to your barbiturate addiction.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT centers on your negative thoughts and feelings in the moment, as well as the behaviors that led you to substance abuse. Together with your therapist, you’ll change these into positive ones that will lead you to long-term sobriety.
  • Group therapy: This mode of talk therapy is especially beneficial for people recovering from addiction. You’ll be surrounded by others like you who know what it’s like to have substance abuse take over their lives. Everyone will share their experiences with the group, and your guiding therapist will lead you in communication exercises and role play.
  • Family therapy: The family bonds severed by addiction can be repaired through therapy at Harmony Ridge. Your family members will understand your substance abuse and learn about what they can do to better support you during this time. You’ll also be able to listen to your family when they talk about how your addiction has negatively impacted them.

Speak with one of our representatives to learn more about other therapy options we have available. We guarantee we’ll have a program that’s right for you.

Find A Way Out of Addiction at Harmony Ridge

There isn’t one right way to treat barbiturates addiction. Every person has their own needs that are specific to their situation. Harmony Ridge’s dedicated staff will be looking out for you from the moment you step into our West Virginia facility. Don’t let substance abuse let you lose even more control of your life. Contact us today to get on the right path to sobriety, happiness, and fulfillment.

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