"reducing alcohol and drug related harm in our communities"
Key Information






Phenobarbitone, amylobarbitone, amylobarbitone sulphate, butobarbitone, quinalbarbitone.




Nembies, Seggies, Chewies, Barbies, Barbs, Sleepers, Blue Bullets, Blue Devils, gorillas, pink ladies




Barbiturates are sedative drugs, which slow down the central nervous system in a similar way to alcohol. A small dose will make people feel relaxed, sociable and good-humoured. With larger doses hostility and anxiety are common effects and slurred speech, loss of co-ordination and difficulty staying awake may follow. Falling over and accidents become more likely.  Injected into a vein barbiturates produce an almost immediate feeling of warmth and drowsiness.




Barbiturates are derivatives of barbituric acid. They can be used as hypnotics, sedatives, anticonvulsants and anesthetics, although they are probably most familiar as 'sleeping pills'. The different properties of the various barbiturates depend upon the sidegroups attached to the ring.


HEALTH RISKS (long term) which includes withdrawal & tolerance:


There is a high risk of overdose because the lethal dose is quite close to the 'normal' dose level. 10 tablets may be fatal and this risk is greater if barbiturate use is combined with use of other downer drugs such as alcohol, heroin or tranquillisers. Besides the usual hazards of injecting (hepatitis, HIV etc.) barbiturate injectors run an increased risk of overdose, gangrene and skin abscesses.  Heavy users are also liable to bronchitis and pneumonia (because the cough reflex is suppressed) and hypothermia. Regular use of barbiturates in the later stages of pregnancy can result in withdrawal symptoms in newborn babies.  Tolerance and physical dependence develop with regular use. Withdrawal from regular use may result in irritability, anxiety, inability to sleep, faintness and nausea, twitching and occasionally convulsions. After very high doses and regular use, severe withdrawal symptoms are likely including seizures, low blood pressure, delirium and hallucinations. Sudden withdrawal from high doses can be fatal. Withdrawal from barbiturates should be medically managed/supervised. 




Barbiturates are a Class B drug and only legally available on prescription.

  1. Barbiturates in high doses are used for physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and in combination with a muscle relaxant for euthanasia and for capital punishment by lethal injection. 
  2. Long-term use can lead to chronic inebriation, aggressive behaviour, impaired judgement and severe insomnia. 
  3. When you take Barbiturates, there is a high risk of overdose because the lethal dose is quite close to the 'normal' dose level. 10 tablets may be fatal and this risk is greater if Barbiturate use is combined with use of other downer drugs such as Alcohol, H eroin or Tranquillisers. 
  4. The first Barbiturates were made in the 1860s by the Bayer laboratories in Germany . In 1903, the first Barbiturate ("Barbital") was used in medical practices. In 1912, a common Barbiturate, Phenobarbital, was introduced. 
  5. Barbiturates have been used extensively in the past as sedatives. A new group of drugs called "Benzodiazepines" has replaced many of the Barbiturates. However, Barbiturates are still used to treat some types of Epilepsy. 
  6. In low doses, Barbiturates reduce anxiety; reduce respiration, reduce blood pressure, reduce heart rate and reduce rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 
  7. In higher doses, Barbiturates can actually increase some types of behaviour and act like a stimulant. These effects may be caused by depression of inhibitory brain circuits. In other words, Barbiturates at these doses act to remove inhibitory behaviour. 
  8. Barbiturates can lead to excessive sedation and cause anesthesia, coma and even death. Barbiturate overdoses may occur because the effective dose of the drug is not too far away from the lethal dose. 
  9. The Barbiturate called Sodium Pentothal is known as "truth serum." However, it really does not cause people to tell the truth. Rather, it may lower a person's inhibitions and make people more talkative. 
  10. Musician Jimi Hendrix died on September 18, 1970 of a Barbiturate overdose.
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