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Barbiturate FAQs: Your Questions Answered

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

December 21, 2023 (Originally Published)

March 22, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Barbiturates are a class of drugs that have been historically used for various medical purposes, although their use has diminished over the years due to their high potential for abuse and the availability of safer alternatives. This guide addresses the most common barbiturate FAQs.

What are barbiturates used for?

Some common uses of barbiturates include:

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  • Seizure control: Certain barbiturates, such as phenobarbital, have been used to manage seizures and epilepsy.
  • Anxiety and insomnia: Barbiturates were once prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia, although this use has declined due to the introduction of safer alternatives like benzodiazepines and z-drugs.
  • Anesthesia: In the past, barbiturates were used as anesthetics for medical procedures, but this application has largely been replaced by safer drugs.

Are barbiturates depressants?

Yes, barbiturates are classified as central nervous system depressants. They act on the brain to reduce nerve activity, leading to a calming or sedative effect. This depressive action on the central nervous system is why barbiturates were used as sedatives, hypnotics, and anticonvulsants. Their use has significantly declined due to safety concerns, though, particularly the narrow therapeutic range, high risk of overdose, and potential for addiction associated with these drugs. Today, safer alternatives like benzodiazepines are more commonly prescribed for similar therapeutic purposes.

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What Drugs are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are a class of drugs that share a common chemical structure and exert their effects on the CNS (central nervous system). Some well-known examples of barbiturates include:

  • Phenobarbital: Used as an anticonvulsant to control seizures, phenobarbital has a relatively long duration of action and has been employed for various medical purposes.
  • Secobarbital (Seconal): Often prescribed as a short-acting barbiturate, Seconal has been used for its sedative properties, particularly as a pre-anesthetic medication.
  • Pentobarbital (Nembutal): Known for its sedative and hypnotic effects, Nembutal can treat insomnia and may be indicated as a short-term anesthetic.
  • Butalbital: Typically combined with other medications like acetaminophen and caffeine in formulations like Fioricet, butalbital is used to relieve tension headaches and migraines.
  • Amobarbital (Amytal): Prescribed as a sedative-hypnotic, Amytal is used to treat sleep disorders and anxiety.

Is Xanax a barbiturate?

No, Xanax is not a barbiturate. It is a benzodiazepine. Both Xanax and barbiturates are sedatives, but they differ in their chemical structures and mechanisms of action.

Is alcohol a barbiturate?

No, alcohol is not a barbiturate. Alcohol is also a CNS depressant, but it is not a barbiturate.

Is a quaalude a barbiturate?

No, Quaaludes are not barbiturates. They belong to a class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics and have a different chemical structure and mechanism of action than barbiturates.

Is Valium a barbiturate?

No, Valium (diazepam) is not a barbiturate. It is a benzodiazepine that works by enhancing the effects of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that has calming effects on the brain.

Is Ambien a barbiturate?

No, Ambien is not a barbiturate. It is a non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic medication that works on GABA receptors, similar to benzodiazepines, but it is chemically distinct from barbiturates.

Is trazodone a barbiturate?

No, trazodone is not a barbiturate. It is an antidepressant that belongs to the class of drugs known as SARIs (serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors) that has a different mechanism of action than barbiturates.

Is Klonopin a barbiturate?

No, Klonopin (clonazepam) is not a barbiturate. It is a benzodiazepine that enhances the effects of GABA in the brain, leading to a calming effect. The mechanism differs from barbiturates.

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Get Treatment for Barbiturate Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

If you require barbiturate overdose or addiction treatment, reach out to Renaissance Recovery in Huntington Beach, CA.

Not everyone needs residential rehab, so if you are looking for a more affordable approach to addiction treatment that enables you to fulfill your everyday obligations, call 866.330.9449 today. for those who need more support and structure, we also offer an IOP (intensive outpatient program) and PHP (partial hospitalization program) at our beachside treatment center.

All Renaissance treatment programs blend the following treatments to help you address barbiturate addiction:

Call Renaissance today at 866.330.9449 and begin your recovery from barbiturate addiction tomorrow.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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