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Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates

Benzodiazepines and BarbituatesBenzodiazepines and Barbiturates

Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates have been around since the 1800s.  Barbiturates were synthesized is 1864 and benzodiazepines weren’t synthesized until the early 1900s.  Barbiturates do not have an upper limit on the inhibitory effects but benzodiazepines do.  Even though there are many forms of barbiturates only a few of them are used in medicine today.  This means that in high doses it is more likely for a person to become unconscious and have respiratory depression when they take barbiturates.  The effects are typically euphoric and are similar to the effects of alcohol. This includes sleeping pills but is rarely prescribed because of the negative side effects. The ability to overdose of barbiturates is much higher than benzodiazepines and this is the main reason why benzodiazepines have replaced barbiturates.

Sedative-hypnotics are used to help people sleep.  Benzodiazepines and barbiturates are both sedative hypnotics.  Sedative hypnotics change the effects of the inhibitory transmitter GABA which with too much excitement could result in seizures.

Even though sedative-hypnotics are used to treat insomnia it is known that sedative-hypnotics can also cause rebound insomnia which results in bizarre dreaming and insomnia. This then has the desire for a person to continue taking the drug because the insomnia actually gets worse when they stop taking the drugs.  People are finding it difficult to stop because it can take up to a month for the withdrawal effects to go away.

Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates - The Tranquilizers

Tranquilizers are called benzodiazepines and are used for reducing anxiety and other mental illnesses.  Like barbiturates, the effects are similar to alcohol.  Tranquilizers are very popular in the United States because of the growing number of mental illnesses that are being diagnosed.   The danger of prescribing this drug is that about a week after discontinuing the use it is highly likely to cause a seizure.

Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates - The Problems

Benzodiazepines and barbiturates have many problems.  They tend to be over prescribed with long lasting after affects.  Because they are prescribed so much, people believe them to be safe and even overdo them simply because a doctor gave them to them!  This is also starting to have an affect on youth who are receiving prescriptions much more than they used to in the past.  Be aware that just because a doctor gave you a prescription for these pills they are no safer in preventing you from becoming addicted so be careful!


McKim, William A. Drugs and Behavior: an Introduction to Behavioral Pharmacology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.