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photo of barbiturate pills commonly known as sedatives or downers

Barbiturates can be classified into short, intermediate and long duration of action. The short duration barbiturates are typically used only for anesthesia and are not covered as a topic on this site. The onset of barbiturate addiction, amount of euphoria and addictive potential varies with each type of barbiturate. Because barbiturates are sedatives, they are also known as downers. Barbs (barbiturates in general), Tooies (Amytal, Seconal), Butes (Butaltal), Nebmies (Nembutal), Yellow Jackets Nembutal), and Phennies (Luminal) are street names that are used to denote the various barbiturates.

But, regardless of which barbiturate one is addicted to, or what the user chooses to call them, those who have entered drug rehab for barbiturate detox and barbiturate rehab will tell you that the outcome is the same. Barbiturate addiction creates medical, mental health, financial, social and employment stressors and sometimes legal problems, especially for possession of illicit substances and driving a vehicle under the influence of a mood-altering substance. Having said that, the faster-acting, shorter-duration barbiturates have a more pronounced and more rapid onset of withdrawal and the slower-acting, longer-acting barbiturates have a slower, but longer withdrawal syndrome.

Whichever barbiturate has taken hold of you or your loved one’s life, barbiturate detox can be difficult and even fatal and is best carried-out in an inpatient drug detox. Much like alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal, barbiturate withdrawal can create hypertension (high blood pressure), tachycardia (elevated heart rate), increased respiratory rate, increased temperature, dehydration and seizures. With these symptoms, one could go on to experience a stroke, cardiac arrest (heart attack), or suffer severe neurologic and physical damage from a seizure. Further, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia may occur without proper treatment. It goes without saying that sleep will be disrupted, the anxiety level will be high, and tremors may occur. Barbiturate addiction treatment is paramount for those who are abusing barbiturates and can’t imagine living his/her life without a constant supply of the drug.

Commonly prescribed barbiturates from the intermediate duration of affect category that are known to be abused and lead to addiction, along with their respective indications for prescription are:

  • Amytal – amobarbital – Anxiety, insomnia, and as a pre-operative sedative
  • Allonal – apropbarbital – Insomnia
  • Butisol – butobarbital – Insomnia and pre-operative sedation
  • Nembutal – pentobarbital – Anxiety, insomnia, pre-operative sedation, and seizures
  • Seconal – secobarbital – Insomnia and pre-operative sedation
  • Fioricet, Fiorinal, and Fiorinal with Codeine

The long-acting barbiturates are more utilized for anxiety, seizure disorders, and alcohol, barbiturate, benzo and opiate detoxification, typically carried out on an inpatient drug detox unit by a qualified medical professional. Long-acting barbiturates include:


  • Mebaral – mephobarbital
  • Prominal – methylophenobarbital
  • Lumnial – phenobarbital


There are residential drug treatment centers that can assist you or a loved one to avoid overdose and respiratory or cardiac arrest and crawl out from a life of unmanageability. It is important to receive help at a drug rehab that is proficient in treating those with an addiction to sedatives, such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines and alcohol. It is important to also know that if you started taking a sedative because of anxiety, insomnia or a medical disorder, such as epilepsy, the barbiturate detox should be carried out in an inpatient or residential drug rehab that has the capability of providing medical and psychiatric care and emotional support.

Two other medications that contain a barbiturate deserve a special mention. These two drugs are prescribed for headaches and are named Fioricet and Fiorinal. It is not common knowledge that although these medications are pain medications, one of the main ingredients is a barbiturate, rather than an opiate. So, rather than an opiate detox, for those who have found themselves bound by a Fioricet or Fiorinal addiction should seek an inpatient drug detox center for a sedation addiction – specifically for a barbiturate addiction.

Fioricet contains butalbital, which is a short-acting barbiturate, along with caffeine and acetaminophen; whereas, Fioricet contains the same barbiturate, butalbital, along with caffeine and aspirin. Fioricet addiction and Fiorinal addiction are both medical disorders that should be treated in a well-qualified drug and alcohol treatment center that understands that the withdrawal from these two prescription pain pills is not an opiate withdrawal, but is a sedative withdrawal. Not to mention, withdrawal from the caffeine component can lead to lethargy, anxiety and severe headaches, when not treated appropriately with a caffeine taper.

For those who have fallen into the abyss of a severe addiction to Fioricet can expect to have medical problems from the excessive ingestion of aspiring, such as a bleeding disorder, gastric ulcers, bleeding from the stomach that results in black stools or vomiting “coffee ground” appearing fluid, and even kidney problems. For those who have unrequited access to Fiorinal, the acetaminophen component, when taken in excess can cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis and liver failure.

Because of the additional potential medical problems associated with the acetaminophen and aspirin components of Fiorinal and Firoicet, the barbiturate detox should be carried out in an inpatient detox center, or a residential drug rehab that offers medical supervision.

To further complicate matters, Fiorinal with Codeine is available and FDA approved for the treatment of tension headache. For those who are in the grips of an addiction to Fiorinal, and because codeine is an opiate, the addict and his/her family must not only deal with a barbiturate detox, but also an opiate detox. There are centers that specialize in the inpatient detox of those who are addicted to both barbiturates and opiates.

After the barbiturate detox is complete and the addict is medically and psychiatrically stabilized, it is likely that the patient will be referred to an inpatient or residential drug rehab for continued care. This may require a transfer to another facility. However, there are facilities that offer drug detox and drug rehab at the same location. In drug rehab, the recovering addict will learn new coping skills, continue to receive emotional support, and develop a relapse prevention plan.

To learn more about barbiturate addiction and treatment, the Addiction Specialists at BWR are always available to receive your call, or you may complete a confidential contact form.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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