Barbiturates

By: Vikas J. Amara

About the drug and its symptoms

Barbiturates are considered central nervous system depressants.


The basic structure of all barbiturates is barbituric acid (a molecular diagram of this is shown). Barbituric acid was first synthesized by German scientist Adolf von Baeyer by condensing urea and diethyl malonate.


Barbiturates are either in the form of free acid or salts (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, lithium).


There are four categories in the broad class of barbiturates:


  • Ultrashort-acting: anesthesia for short periods of time used in emergency situations
  • Short/intermediate-acting: also anesthesia, and prescribed for anxiety and insomnia
  • Long-acting: primarily used for anticonvulsants



Symptoms During Overdose


  • Broad -- from mild sedation to heavy anesthesia
  • Sluggishness, incoordination, difficulty in thinking, slowness in speech, faulty judgement, drowsiness
  • In extreme cases, coma or death


Barbiturates are usually taken in the form of pills.

Incidence of the druG in America

About 9% of Americans will abuse barbiturates at some point in their lives.

Disruption of Cell-to-cell comMunication

Barbiturates affect the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which decreases CNS activity. GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter for reducing neuronal excitability in the CNS, As we should already know, neurotransmitters are brain chemicals in charge of communication between brain cells. Barbiturates produce drowsiness by stimulating more receptors for GABA, increasing the substance's traffic — the more GABA in one's brain, the more tired he feels.

Possible Treatments in Barbiturate Overdose

Depends on severity of condition


  • Activated charcoal may be given through nasogastric tube
  • Intravenous administration of saline, naloxone, thiamine, and/or glucose
  • NaHCO3 to alkalize the urine to increase rate of excretion
  • Intubation and megamide, or a hand-breather where these are not available until the patient can breathe under their own power
  • Observation in the Emergency Department for a number of hours or admission to the hospital for several days of observation if symptoms are severe
  • Advising the patient about drug misuse or refer for psychiatric consult