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Encyclopedia > Barbiturates

Barbiturates are drugs that acts as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and by virtue of this they produce a wide spectrum of effects, from mild sedation to anesthesia. Some also are used as anticonvulsants.


Barbiturates are derivatives of barbituric acid.

Contents

Medical uses

Today barbiturates are mainly used as anticonvulsants and for the induction of anesthesia.


These barbiturates are available in the U.S.:

  • Amobarbital (Sodium Amytal; hypnotic)
  • Aprobarbital (hypnotic)
  • Butabarbital (hypnotic)
  • Butalbital (Fiorinal; sedative)
  • Hexobarbital (Sombulex; hypnotic/anesthetic)
  • Mephobarbital (antianxiety)
  • Pentobarbital (Nembutal; hypnotic)
  • Phenobarbital (Luminal; hypnotic, sedative, anticonvulsant)
  • Secobarbital (Seconal; hypnotic)
  • Sodium thiopental
  • Talbutal (Lotusate; hypnotic)
  • Thiobarbital (anesthetic)

Sometimes two or more barbiturates are combined in a single tablet or capsule; perhaps the most well-known of these combinations is Tuinal, which consists of amobarbital and secobarbital in equal proportions.


Barbiturate abuse

Barbiturates were very popular in the first half of the 20th century. In moderate amounts, these drugs produce a state of intoxication that is remarkably similar to alcohol intoxication. Symptoms include slurred speech, loss of motor coordination, and impaired judgment. Depending on the dose, frequency, and duration of use, one can rapidly develop tolerance, physical dependence, and psychological dependence to barbiturates. With the development of tolerance, the margin of safety between the effective dose and the lethal dose becomes very narrow. That is, in order to obtain the same level of intoxication, the tolerant abuser may raise his or her dose to a level that may result in coma or death. Although many individuals have taken barbiturates therapeutically without harm, concern about the addiction potential (withdrawal symptoms can include tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures potentially leading to permanent disability or even death) of barbiturates and the ever-increasing number of fatalities associated with them led to the development of alternative medications, namely benzodiazepines. Today, less than 10 percent of all sedative/hypnotic prescriptions in the United States are for barbiturates.


Other non-therapeutical use

Barbiturates in high doses are used for physician-assisted suicide (PAS), and, in combination with a muscle relaxant, for euthanasia and for capital punishment by lethal injection.


References





  Results from FactBites:
 
UNODC - Bulletin on Narcotics - 1958 Issue 3 - 003 (2563 words)
Initial observations of addicts who employ barbiturates as a base powder during the smoking of heroin suggested that some of these individuals might suffer from the deleterious effects of chronic barbiturate intake, or in fact be addicted to both barbiturates and heroin.
Therefore, an investigation was undertaken to determine (1) the nature of the base powder, (2) the amount of base powder used by addicts, (3) the effect of volatilization of the base powder and (4) the amount of volatilized base powder inhaled by the addicts.
The addicting dose of the barbiturates varies with the potency of the compound, and therefore larger amounts of barbitone would be required to produce addiction.
eMedicine - Toxicity, Barbiturate : Article by Rania Habal, MD (5265 words)
Barbiturates are used mainly as intravenous (IV) anesthetics, as anticonvulsants, and in the resuscitation of patients with cerebral injuries.
Barbiturates are weak acids that are absorbed rapidly from the gastrointestinal tract and are distributed to all tissues and fluids.
Because barbiturates and other sedative-hypnotics have predictable effects on the EEG, the pattern of EEG waves may be used to evaluate the depth of coma and the progress of patients in the intensive care unit.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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