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Barbiturates, Like ethanol, barbiturates are intoxicating and produce similar effects during intoxication. The symptoms of barbiturate intoxication include respiratory depression, lowered blood pressure, fatigue, fever, unusual excitement, irritability, dizziness, poor concentration, sedation, confusion, impaired coordination, impaired judgment, addiction, and respiratory arrest which may lead to death.

Recreational use

Barbiturate high gives them feelings of relaxed contentment and euphoria. The main risk of acute barbiturate abuse is respiratory depression. Physical and psychological dependence may also develop with repeated use. Other effects of barbiturate intoxication include drowsiness, lateral and vertical nystagmus, slurred speech and ataxia, decreased anxiety, a loss of inhibitions. Barbiturates are also used to alleviate the adverse or withdrawal effects of drug use.

Drug users tend to prefer short-acting and intermediate-acting barbiturates. The most commonly abused are amobarbital (Amytal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), and secobarbital (Seconal). A combination of amobarbital and secobarbital (called Tuinal) is also highly abused. Short-acting and intermediate-acting barbiturates are usually prescribed as sedatives and sleeping pills. These pills begin acting fifteen to forty minutes after they are swallowed, and their effects last from five to six hours. Veterinarians use pentobarbital to anesthetise animals before surgery; in large doses, it can be used to euthanise animals.

About Barbiturates

The barbiturates once enjoyed a long period of extensive use as sedative-hypnotic drugs; however, except for a few specialized uses, they have been largely replaced by the much safer benzodiazepines.

Barbiturates are CNS depressants and are similar, in many ways, to the depressant effects of alcohol. To date, there are about 2,500 derivatives of barbituric acid of which only 15 are used medically. The first barbiturate was synthesized from barbituric acid in 1864. The original use of barbiturates was to replace drugs such as opiates, bromides, and alcohol to induce sleep.

The hyponotic and sedative effects produced by barbiturates are usually ascribed to their interference of nerve transmission to the cortex. Various theories for the action of barbiturates include: changes in ion movements across the cell membrane; interactions with cholinergic and non cholinergic receptor sites; impairment of biochemical reactions which provide energy; and depression of selected areas of the brain.

The structures of the barbiturates can be related to the duration of effective action. Although over 2000 derivatives of barbituric acid have been synthesized only about a dozen are currently used. All of the barbiturates are related to the structure of barbituric acid shown below.

The duration of effect depends mainly on the alkyl groups attached to carbon # 5 which confer lipid solubility to the drug. The duration of effective action decreases as the total number of carbons at C # 5 increases. To be more specific, a long effect is achieved by a short chain and/or phenyl group. A short duration effect occurs when there are the most carbons and branches in the alkyl chains.


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