Barbiturates are medications that work as depressant of thecentral nervous system. This group of medications is derived for barbituricacid and includes drugs such as: amobarbital, allobarbital, secobarbital,barbital, pentobarbital and Phenobarbital.
These drugs are known for the effects they cause on the brain(central nervous system), the heart and both types of the muscles (skeletal andsmooth). The effects on the brain depend on the dose of the medications, andcan vary from mild sedation to comatose state. Also, barbiturates in low doses canease the tension and anxiety, and decrease blood pressure, heart rate and rapideye movement.
Higher doses of these drugs are known to affect the behaviorand suppress all inhibitions, while barbiturate overdose can cause sedation,anesthesia and coma, and in some cases even fatal consequences.
The exact mechanism of the effects barbiturates have on thebrain is still unknown. Scientists believe that these drugs affect both sodiumand chloride ions channels, reducing the action potential and depressing thebrain activity.
Medical Use of Barbiturates
These medications have been used as anxiolytics andhypnotics, especially pentobarbital and Phenobarbital. These days, barbituratesare replaced with much safer drugs for the same purpose, usuallybenzodiazepines. Barbiturate overdose is proven to have potential to be lethalfor the patients and overdose of benzodiazepines have less chances to be fatal.
Ultrashort-acting and sometimes intermediate-actingbarbiturates are used for anesthetic purposes, when a patient experiences amedical emergency and needs to be immediately anesthetized for the surgery. Longacting barbiturates like Phenobarbital are used to treat different convulsions,such as epileptic or febrile seizures, status epilepticus or eclampsia.
Barbiturates have several problems associated with theiruse. These drugs are known to provoke tolerance, dependence and withdrawalsymptoms, and there are a lot of people abusing barbiturates to treat their sleepingproblems. Doctors never recommend barbiturates for the treatment of insomnia andother sleep-related issues, since they have extremely long half life andtendency for developing addiction.
Person that stopped using barbiturates can experience withdrawalsigns and symptoms, which might include insomnia, nausea, stomach problems,anxiety, seizures or even hallucinations.
Beside the use for sleeping problems, people may abusebarbiturates for relaxed feeling, euphoria and ecstasy they experience during theuse. Short and intermediate-acting barbiturates, especially secobarbital,amobarbital and pentobarbital are the most commonly abused drugs. These peoplecould suffer from some severe side effects. Depression, respiratory problems,dependence, vision and speech problems and drowsiness are just some of the potentialproblems associated with the abuse of barbiturates.
These medications are also found less safe and less selectivethan some other drugs, and have some possibly dangerous interactions with othermedications.