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What is a Barbiturate?

Barbiturates are a group of drugs in the class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics, which generally describes their sleep-inducing effects.

However, Barbiturates can be extremely dangerous because the correct dose is difficult to predict. Even a slight overdose can cause a  coma or death. In addition, Barbiturates are addictive and can cause a life-threatening withdrawal syndrome.

The drug was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s as treatment for anxiety, insomnia, or seizure disorders. They evolved into recreational drugs that some people used to reduce inhibitions, decrease anxiety, and to treat unwanted side effects of illicit drugs. Barbiturate abuse has declined dramatically since the 1970s, mainly because a safer group of sedative-hypnotics called benzodiazepines is being prescribed. However, they can still be found from time to time

Names of Barbiturates


Medical Name Street Name
Amobarbital Downers, blue heavens, blue velvet, blue devils
Pentobarbital Nembies, yellow jackets, abbots, Mexican yellows
Phenobarbital Purple hearts, goof balls
Secobarbital Reds, red birds, red devils, lilly, F-40s, pinks, pink ladies, seggy
Tuinal Rainbows, reds and blues, tooies, double trouble, gorilla pills, F-66s

Do You Know Someone Struggling with Drugs?

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

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