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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation


Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotic medications, meaning they cause you to feel relaxed or sleepy. For over a century, they’ve treated many conditions, including seizures, migraines, insomnia and more. They’re less common today because of the risk of misuse and certain side effects. However, they can be a backup treatment when others don’t work.

Barbiturates belong to the sedative-hypnotic class of medications. Sedatives are medications that help you calm down and relax. Hypnotics make you drowsy (their name comes from the word “hypnos,” which means “sleep” in Greek).

Barbiturates affect your brain by increasing a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows down the activity of your brain cells.

Effects Of Barbiturates

Trouble breathing (dyspnea).

Confusion or trouble thinking.

Passing out or fainting.

Slow pulse (bradycardia); however, barbiturate overdose can also cause a fast, weak pulse.

Dizziness and vertigo.

Nausea and vomiting.

Low body temperature (hypothermia).

Muscle weakness.

Feeling very thirsty.

A blue tint to lips or fingernails (cyanosis).

Unfocused or rapidly shifting eyes, or eyes with unusually small or large pupils.

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