Benzodiazepines vs Barbiturates

Benzodiazepines vs Barbiturates

Benzodiazepines (benzos) and barbiturates are prescription medications that can be quite beneficial when used appropriately and extremely dangerous when misused. These medications share several similarities, but there are also some key differences between benzodiazepines vs. barbiturates. 

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: What are the Differences?

One difference between benzodiazepines vs. barbiturates involves their legitimate medical uses:

  • Benzos are primarily used to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. 
  • Barbiturates can treat anxiety and seizures, too – but they may also be used for anesthetic purposes as well as to intentionally induce coma in people who are suffering from excessive intracranial pressure.

A second difference is the frequency with which they are prescribed. Barbiturates were used much more commonly in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent decades, doctors have been much more likely to prescribe benzodiazepines, because these medications have fewer side effects and pose a lower risk of abuse and dependence.

Also, the length of time that these substances remain in your body may be slightly different: 

  • Benzodiazepines may be detected in blood tests for two to three days after your last dose. Some benzos cannot be detected in urine after 24 hours, while others may be present for up to eight days. Hair follicles may test positive for benzodiazepines for as long as three months. 
  • How long do barbiturates stay in your system? As with benzos, it depends on the type of test you are taking. Barbiturates may be detectable in blood five days after you last used them. Urine may test positive for barbiturates for about 10 days, and hair follicles may retain traces of the drug for 90 days. 

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: Examples

The following list contains examples of barbiturates that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use in the United States. In this list, the generic term for the barbiturate is listed first, followed by the brand name that it is often sold under:

  • Amobarbital (Amytal Sodium)
  • Butalbital (Fioricet)
  • Methohexital (Brevital)
  • Pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • Phenobarbital (Luminal)
  • Primidone (Mysoline)

Here is a list of commonly prescribed benzodiazepines. As with the barbiturate list, these examples include the generic name of the benzo first, followed by the brand name:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion) 

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: Symptoms of Abuse

It is difficult to differentiate benzodiazepines vs. barbiturates in terms of symptoms of abuse, as both types of drugs have similar effects. Someone who has been abusing either a barbiturate or a benzodiazepine may experience the following symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Diminished inhibitions
  • Dramatic mood swings

Once a person has become addicted to a benzo or a barbiturate, they may begin to exhibit the following signs:

  • Attempting to buy, borrow, or steal drugs that have been prescribed to someone else
  • Visiting several doctors and misrepresenting their symptoms in order to get multiple prescriptions for benzos or barbiturates
  • Failing to meet their responsibilities in school, on the job, or at home due to their abuse of benzos or barbiturates
  • Using these drugs in obviously hazardous ways, such as mixing them with alcohol or other substances
  • Continuing to abuse the drugs even after experiencing negative effects (such as health problems, job loss, or relationship conflicts) due to prior use
  • Needing to use larger amounts of the drug to achieve the effects that they could previously experience with much smaller doses
  • Becoming agitated or irritated when they can’t acquire or use benzos or barbiturates
  • Wanting to end their drug use, trying to stop using the drugs, but being unable to do so

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: Dangers

In terms of dangers, here are two significant differences between benzodiazepines vs. barbiturates:

  • Barbiturate addiction typically occurs quicker than benzo addiction. 
  • Barbiturates can pose a greater risk for overdose.

Please note that this information in no way implies that benzodiazepine abuse is a safe behavior. Anyone who abuses either of these two substances puts themselves at risk for myriad negative outcomes, including addiction, overdose, and death.  

Additional dangers of long-term abuse of benzos or barbiturates can include:

  • Damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Memory problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Frequent absenteeism and poor performance in school or at work
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems, including being arrested, fined, or jailed
  • Ruined relationships
  • Development of co-occurring mental health disorders

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: Street Names 

Another difference between benzodiazepines vs. barbiturates are their street names, or the slang terms that some people use when discussing them.

  • Benzodiazepines: Benzos are sometimes called downers, candy, or tranks (an adapted version of tranquilizers). The benzodiazepine Xanax is sometimes referred to as Xan, Xannie, or Zanny.  
  • Barbiturates: Common barbiturates street names include goofballs, barbs, and downers. Specific barbiturates are sometimes known as yellow jackets, red devils, and blue birds. 

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: Treatment

Treatment for an addiction to barbiturates or benzodiazepines may involve detoxification, inpatient rehab, and/or outpatient programming. Depending on which program a person is in, their care may include services such as the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Individual, group, and family therapy

If a person’s struggles with addiction are accompanied by a co-occurring mental health concern, they may also benefit from programming options such as these:

  • Neurofeedback
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy

Begin Treatment for Barbiturates or Benzodiazepines in Los Angeles, California

Sanctuary Treatment Center is a trusted source of quality care for adults who have become addicted to barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and other prescription medications. At our addiction treatment center in Los Angeles, California, you can receive comprehensive services from a team of dedicated professionals provide in a safe and highly supportive environment. To learn more, please visit our About Us page or contact us directly. 

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