Last updated: August 20, 2018

What Does Barbiturate Mean?

A barbiturate is a drug derived from barbitruric acid. This acid is synthetically produced by combining carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Drugs in the barbiturate group act as a depressant on the central nervous system (CNS), slowing down brain function. As a result, barbiturates are sometimes used as sedatives. The drugs may also be used as anticonvulsants, hypnotics, and anesthetics.

Barbiturates are addictive and cause physical dependency. An overdose of barbiturates can result in coma or death. The symptoms of withdrawal can also be life-threatening. Some common barbiturates are phenobarbital and pentobarbital. Sodium pentothal is a fast acting barbiturate sometimes used as an anesthetic.

Barbiturates are controlled substances under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act with individual types of barbiturates listed on Schedules II, III, and IV.


WorkplaceTesting Explains Barbiturate

While barbiturates were used in the past to treat anxiety, seizures, or insomnia, barbiturates are rarely prescribed for medical treatment today. Barbiturates have what is called a narrow therapeutic range. The margin between a safe dose and a deadly on is very small. Patients who must take barbiturates are monitored to ensure that the levels of the drug in their system remain within a safe range. Only about twelve barbiturate drugs are used for medical treatments of any kind.

This narrow margin for error makes barbiturates particularly dangerous with abuse or simple mistakes having serious or deadly results. When combined with other drugs or alcohol, the risk of a fatal overdoes increases. Abuse of barbiturates can also lead to loss of cognitive abilities, poor judgement, lack of coordination, and lethargy.



Pentobarbital, Phenobarbital, Sodium Pentothal

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