Barbiturates Drug Information


barb_structure Barbiturates are a class of drugs capable of producing CNS depression and varying states of sedation or hypnosis. According to the duration of their effects, they are categorized as ultra-short acting, short acting, intermediate acting, and long acting. The duration of effects lasts anywhere from 15 minutes for the ultra-short acting barbiturates to a day or more for the long acting drugs. Short and intermediate acting barbiturates include amobarbital, butalbital, pentobarbital, and secobarbital, while the long acting barbiturates include phenobarbital. Common therapeutic indications include seizures and migraines.


Barbiturates are distributed throughout the body with highest concentrations occurring in the brain, liver and kidneys. In general, duration of action is inversely related to lipid solubility and extent of protein binding. The short and intermediate acting barbiturates are extensively metabolized, while the long acting barbiturates are less extensively metabolized. Short acting barbiturates can be detected in urine up to a few days post ingestion while the long acting drugs can be detected for a few weeks following ingestion.


The most commonly detected barbiturates are butalbital and phenobarbital. Butalbital is prescribed for migraine and muscle relaxation while phenobarbital is primarily prescribed for seizure disorders.

Chemical Name Trade Name Street Name
Amobarbital Amytal Yellow Jackets
Butalbital Fiorinal Blue Devils
Secobarbital Seconal Seconal
Phenobarbital Luminal Downers, Goofballs

Chronic abuse leads to tolerance, and abrupt discontinuance of use can induce a life-threatening withdrawal syndrome that can result in seizures.

Laboratory drug testing: Methods of Analysis

Immunoassays readily detect barbiturates as a class of drugs. Specific barbiturate identification can be accomplished by utilizing confirmatory methods such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

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Drug information data is not definitive and should be used for reference guidelines only.

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