Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  Common Drugs: Barbiturates
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Substance Use: Common Drugs


​​​​​​​​​​​​​What are barbiturates?

Barbiturates are a group of drugs that are sometimes used to treat people who have seizures and some other health problems. Barbiturates are not prescribed often.

Some examples of barbiturates ar​e Fiorinal​ and Phenobarbital. 

What do barbiturates do?

Like sleeping pills, barbiturates are “downers”. They work by making your brain and nervous system less active. This makes the person feel calm.

Are barbiturates addictive?

Yes. People who use barbiturates often need to take more to get the same effects (tolerance). If stopped suddenly, users who are dependent on barbiturates can have problems sleeping, feel restless, or be irritable. The effects of suddenly stopping barbituates may need to be treated in hospital.

How do barbiturates affect the body?

Barbiturates can affect memory and judgment. They can also make people feel depressed, angry, very tired, and cause mood swings.

What are the dangers of barbiturates?

Because they're stronger than most sleeping pills, barbiturates are more dangerous when misused. People can develop tolerance to barbiturates so they start using more and more.

Is it dangerous to take other drugs with barbiturates?

Mixing two types of any drug is never a good idea. It's very dangerous to take them with alcohol or heroin. Alcohol, heroin, and barbiturates all make the brain and nervous system less active. Your nervous system controls things like breathing, so if you combine drugs, you are more likely to stop breathing and die.

What happens when barbiturates are used for a long time?

Using them regularly and for a long time can cause liver damage, muscle weakness and bone pain.

Current as of: August 20, 2019

Author: Poison & Drug Information Service, Alberta Health Services