What are barbiturates? Definition, Effects, Indications

Barbiturates are a class of drugs that have historically been used as sedatives and anesthetics. They have been largely replaced by benzodiazepines, although there are still some scenarios in which barbiturates are used and several pharmaceutical companies continue to produce these drugs. The use of barbiturates needs to be monitored and controlled, since these medications can be dangerous with care, and they can also be very addictive.

The effects of barbiturates

These drugs are formulated in a base of barbituric acid, which acts on the central nervous system. In low doses, barbiturates can have a sedative effect, which is one of the reasons that were historically used to treat anxiety and insomnia. These medications are also used in seizure control, as their depressive effect on the central nervous system seems to help with seizure control. In higher doses, barbiturates cause a relaxation of inhibitions and may have an anesthetic effect.

Some hospitals use barbiturates during the induction of anesthesia or in procedures that require sedation. In this case, the drugs are administered by an anesthesiologist and are strictly controlled, which limits the possibility of abuse. Prescriptions for pills and injectable solutions can be given to patients who need to use barbiturates at home if other medications are not available.

Types of barbiturates

Some examples of barbiturates include sodium pentotal, phenobarbital and secobarbital. A serious problem with barbiturates is that they depress the central nervous system and also decrease the rate of respiration and the heart. In high doses it can cause someone to die and overdoses are a cause of concern among medical providers. People who need to take these drugs receive specific dose advice and are advised to keep the medications in a safe area so that they cannot be taken accidentally.

The use of barbiturates

The prescription of barbiturates has radically reduced rates of abuse and contributed to a significant decrease in deaths or serious injuries due to an overdose. However, people who abuse drugs are still looking for alternatives, which can be more or less dangerous than this type of medication. People who are trying to curb abusive habits may choose to attend an addiction treatment center, so they can be helped with their addiction and the unpleasant side effects associated with giving up drug use.

Veterinarians use barbiturates in euthanasia, and these medications have also been defended for use in medically assisted suicide, a practice that is highly controversial in many regions of the world.

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