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Is Alcohol A Barbiturate? The Dangers Of Overdosing On Both

Most overdoses of this type of medicine involve a mixture of drugs, usually barbiturates and alcohol, or barbiturates and opiates such as heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl.

What are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotic medications that cause you to feel sleepy or relaxed. They’ve treated many conditions for over a century, including migraines, seizures, insomnia, and more. However, they’re less common today because of the risk of abuse and certain side effects. Barbiturates affect your brain by increasing a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows down the activity of your brain cells. At relatively low doses, barbiturates may make a person seem drunk or intoxicated (is alcohol a barbiturate?). Barbiturates are addictive. Individuals who take them become physically dependent on them and barbiturate withdrawal symptoms may appear upon abrupt drug discontinuation [1].

Stopping them (barbiturate withdrawal) can be life-threatening. Tolerance to the mood-altering effects of barbiturates develops rapidly with repeated use. But, tolerance to the lethal effects develops more slowly, and the risk of severe poisoning increases with continued use. Barbiturates were first introduced for medical use in the 1900s, and today, few substances are in medical use. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) [2], A barbiturate overdose happens when someone takes more than the average or recommended amount of this medicine. This can be by accident or on purpose. A barbiturates overdose is life-threatening. Nowadays, barbiturates are typically only used to treat severe and extreme cases of insomnia. These drugs also help control epilepsy seizures.

is alcohol a barbiturate
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Is Alcohol a Barbiturate?

Barbiturate use is a major addiction problem for many people. Most people who take these medicines for seizure disorders or pain syndromes do not abuse them, but those who do usually start by using medicine prescribed for them or other family members. Is alcohol a barbiturate? The short answer is no. Most overdoses of this type of medicine involve a mixture of drugs, usually alcohol and barbiturates, or barbiturates and opiates such as heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl. Some users take a combination of all these drugs. Those who use such combinations tend to be new users who do not know these combinations can lead to coma or death. Others are experienced users who use them on purpose to alter their consciousness.

What Drugs Are Considered Barbiturates?

There are many different barbiturates. The main difference among them is how long their effects last. The effects of some of the long-acting barbiturates may last up to 2 days. Others are very short-acting. Their effects last only a few minutes. Barbiturates can be injected into the muscles or veins, but they are commonly taken in pill form. The street names of widely abused barbiturates describe the drug’s desired effect or the color and markings on the actual pill.

Barbiturate Names

Generic NameStreet Name
PentobarbitalNembies, yellow jackets, abbots, Mexican yellows
AmobarbitalDowners, blue heavens, blue velvet, blue devils
SecobarbitalReds, red birds, red devils, lilly, F-40s, pinks, pink ladies, seggy
TuinalRainbows, reds and blues, tooies, double trouble, gorilla pills, F-66s

Although the medical use of barbiturates has declined since the 1970s, high school surveys suggest abuse has risen over the last ten years. A common reason to abuse barbiturates is to neutralize the symptoms of other drugs; the barbiturates (“downers”) counteract the alertness and excitement acquired from stimulant drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine. Today’s drug abusers may be too young to remember the death and dangerous effects barbiturates caused in the 1970s, so they underestimate the risks of using them. Barbiturates are also commonly used in suicide attempts.

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Mixing Alcohol and Barbiturates

Risky complications can arise if you are addicted to two or more substances simultaneously. For instance, if a person is addicted to barbiturates and alcohol, they may mix the two. barbiturates and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants slow down the activity in the brain. If the nervous system is depressed, it can cease functioning altogether.

What Happens When You Mix Barbiturates and Alcohol?

Although barbiturates are sometimes prescribed for insomnia or anxiety, doctors are careful when prescribing barbiturates because they can become addictive. Barbiturates and alcohol have similar depressant effects on your body’s central nervous system. Mixing barbiturates and alcohol cause a synergistic effect, resulting in acute toxicity. The acute effects of mixing barbiturates with alcohol include:

  • Lethargy
  • Hypothermia
  • Respiratory depression
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination

These effects occur due to lowered brain activity. It takes your brain longer to do its job, and as a result, it has difficulty regulating your body’s core functions, including breathing, blood pressure, and temperature.

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Barbiturates and Alcohol

Alcoholism is still the most prevalent chemical dependency affecting our mature, potentially productive population. However, in this age of “chemical mind alteration,” we have become increasingly aware that people often do not confine themselves to abusing a single substance, which is also true of many alcoholics. Among the various drugs that alcoholics may combine with alcohol, barbiturates are the most common.

Barbiturates can be a helpful drug, and many people can use them for years without abusing them. However, those who abuse them may do so in a similar pattern to alcohol abuse; a one-night affair, a binge of a few days or a few weeks duration, or continuous use. When they have been used continuously, the development of tolerance may necessitate an in¬ crease in dosage, and withdrawal symptoms may appear upon abrupt discontinuation of the drug.

Tolerance is the term applied when a drug gradually loses its effectiveness, so the dose has to be increased to maintain the same effect. In the case of barbiturates, tolerance may be partly due to microsomal enzyme induction in the liver and partly to an adaptation of the brain. On a dosage of up to 500 mg. per day, it is possible to develop nearly complete tolerance to the drug. That is, it becomes ineffective, so an increase in the dosage is necessary. With a dosage of over 800 mg. per day, tolerance is never complete; some intoxication will always be present in individuals who take such high doses.

is alcohol a barbiturate
We certainly would discourage using barbiturates as sleeping pills or daytime sedatives in the long-term treatment of alcohol.

This distinguishes barbiturates from opiates, which can rapidly bring about very high and complete tolerance to doses that would be fatal to a novice. Neither barbiturates nor alcohol causes such a high and absolute tolerance. The dose that would kill a beginner would also kill an addict. Barbiturates, besides having their known pharmacological effect, may cause intoxication that is very similar to that produced by alcohol, with motor incoordination, impaired thinking, lack of emotional control, aggressive behavior, staggering, etc.

Barbiturates and Alcohol Cross-Tolerance

In alcoholics, we have to consider the interesting phenomenon of cross-tolerance, which means that the development of tolerance to one depressant drug (e.g., alcohol.) produces increased tolerance to another (e.g., barbiturate) even though the second substance may never be administered. This would account for the fact (which every anesthetist knows) that standard doses of barbiturates have little effect on alcoholics. It also explains why alcoholics tend to use higher than usual doses of these drugs.

Another factor to be considered in alcoholics is that in temporary impairment of liver function (e.g., fatty liver) or permanent liver damage (e.g., alcoholic cirrhosis), the metabolism of barbiturates suffers. In these conditions, the opposite of cross-tolerance is produced, namely barbiturate toxicity with relatively small doses. This is particularly true of the shorter-acting barbiturates, which are exclusively metabolized in the liver. The long-acting ones, such as phenobarbital, are excreted mainly by the kidney.

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Barbiturates for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcoholics are particularly prone to intermittent or continuous barbiturate abuse, which may amount to addiction. The alcoholic who is given a barbiturate by his doctor or his buddy will be quick to recognize that its intoxicating effect is similar to and interchangeable with alcohol. Furthermore, it can significantly boost the alcohol effect. Some will eventually abandon alcohol and turn to barbiturates entirely, discovering that they have distinct advantages over alcohol. They are easy to carry and hide, do not smell, and do not upset stomachs.

Addiction to barbiturates in alcoholics is but one potential danger. Even for the occasional barbiturate user, the synergistic or additive effect of the drug and alcohol represents inherent hazards. Research also suggests that there is a possibility of “accidental suicide” by both substances when the confusion caused by either one results in an accidental overdose. This is quite apart from the deliberate suicide attempt to which alcoholics are quite prone. Several other studies indicate the lethal synergism of alcohol and barbiturates and emphasize that many fatal barbiturate poisonings are accidental deaths. Survival might have been possible if alcohol had not been present.

The mechanism by which alcohol and barbiturates react with each other is not entirely clear. Still, considerable research material on this subject is available in this field. The large amounts of alcohol may partially suppress the more severe manifestations of barbiturate withdrawal because these two intoxications are, to some degree, equivalent.

All complex experimental data support the clinically accepted observations that alcohol and barbiturates do not mix well and that barbiturates should have no place in the treatment of alcoholism. In the alcohol-withdrawal syndrome, there are still some who prefer barbiturates. Although one cannot say that the short-term medical administration of these drugs is necessarily dangerous in situations such as delirium tremens or that they will induce abuse, we see no need for their use in such cases as other medications are equally effective.

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Barbiturate and Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment Options

There is a strong link between anxiety meds like barbiturates and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Individuals who struggle with mood disorders like depression and anxiety are more susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, often to self-medicate symptoms of their underlying mental health condition. These co-occurring disorders can make each other worse without proper barbiturates and alcohol withdrawal treatment.

To determine the most effective ways to treat barbiturates and alcohol withdrawal and addiction, getting an accurate assessment of all the symptoms is crucial. When a mental health professional has evaluated the symptoms, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.

is alcohol a barbiturate
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Barbiturates and Alcohol Detox

Medical detox is weaning someone off of the drug. It allows members of centers like We Level Up to recover safely and comfortably. While an uncomfortable withdrawal from barbiturates and alcohol is unavoidable, it doesn’t have to be unbearable.

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated barbiturates and alcohol withdrawal but doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior contributing to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can give necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen barbiturates and alcohol withdrawal cravings and effects.

Inpatient Drug Rehab for Withdrawal Symptoms of Barbiturates

There isn’t one treatment approach or style that will suit everyone. Treatment should speak to the needs of the individual. Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction treatment aren’t just about drug and alcohol use. the goal is to help the patient stop using barbiturates. Drug and alcohol rehab should also focus on the whole person’s needs.

Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. When someone or their family is considering different treatment facilities, they should account for the complexity of addiction and the needs of the individual. The objective of attending an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center for addiction treatment is to stop using the drug and re-learn how to live a productive life without it.

Most people benefit from inpatient rehab after a full medical detox from drugs and alcohol. Inpatient drug rehab can last anywhere from 28 days to several months. Patients stay overnight in the rehab facility and participate in intensive treatment programs and therapy. Once someone completes rehab, their addiction treatment team will create an aftercare program, including continuing therapy and participation in a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.


Many rehab programs will also have early morning classes or programs. Group sessions occur during inpatient rehab, as do individual therapy sessions. Family therapy may be part of inpatient rehab when it’s feasible. Alternative forms of therapy may be introduced during inpatient rehab, like a holistic therapy programyoga for addiction recovery, or addiction treatment massage therapy.

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves changing both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Solution-focused therapy is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. This strategy treats both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend mainly on the treatment for both diseases done by the same team or provider.

Medication Assisted Treatments (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Please, do not try to detox on your own. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. However, getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment. We Level Up provide proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery through our opioid addiction treatment program medically. So, reclaim your life, and call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Barbiturates and Alcohol Rehab Near Me

Drug and alcohol addiction is a condition that can cause major health problems, such as an overdose. We Level Up rehab treatment & detox center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition and give you clarity about issues like barbiturate withdrawal symptoms. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

is alcohol a barbiturate
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[1] DEA –
[2] MedlinePlus –
[3] NCBI –
[4] What Are Barbiturates And Its Effects? Addiction, Symptoms, Overdose, Withdrawal, & Treatment (

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