These medications have similar functions and uses. However, the differences in the two are why barbiturates are so much more dangerous than benzos. Both have the effects of sedation, and are used to treat the same things. However, there is one distinct difference between the two. Understanding each of these drugs, their uses and dangers can be helpful to differentiate between the two, and help to understand the risks associated with taking them. 

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are a sedative drug that can cause users to feel sleepy or relaxed. They help to calm people down when they may be anxious. They are also used in general anesthesia, treating epileptic and nonepileptic seizures, and insomnia, as well as other conditions. 

Barbiturates work by increasing the brain’s production of GABA, a neurotransmitter which inhibits the communication between cells in the brain. This means it can lessen brain cell activity in its users. The lowered activity in the brain is what makes these drugs usable to treat conditions like seizures, as the lowered brain activity can lower the risk of seizures occurring. These medications are habit forming, and can lead to dependence. 

Types of Barbiturates

There are many barbiturates that are available worldwide. However, some countries no longer allow the use of some of them. Some of the more commonly used barbiturates are:

  • Butalbital: can be combined with other medications to treat migraines and tension headaches.
  • Phenobarbital: used to prevent and stop seizures that are occurring
  • Pentobarbital: used in pre anesthesia and to stop seizures as they are happening
  • Secobarbital: used uncommonly to treat insomnia

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a central nervous system (CNS) suppressant. They have the same effects on GABA that barbiturates do, meaning that they cause the overproduction leading to slowed brain activity. However, with this slowed brain activity comes some side effects. Things like forgetfulness, and drowsiness are associated with benzos. 

Benzos are used in the treatment of disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. They are also used in beginning general anesthesia. These drugs are a controlled substance, and therefore only legally attainable through a prescription from a doctor. These medications are also habit forming and can lead to dependence. 

Types of Benzodiazepines

Most benzos are used to treat the same ailments that barbiturates can treat. Some of the more commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax): used mainly for anxiety disorders
  • Klonazepam (Klonopin): Used for anxiety, seizure, and agitation disorders
  • Diazepam (Valium): used for alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and muscle spasms
  • Temazepam (Restoril): used for insomnia
  • Lorazepam (Ativan): used for seizures, anxiety, phobias, and pre anesthesia 

Difference Between Barbiturates and Benzos

While these medications have similar effects and uses, what makes barbiturates so much more dangerous than benzos is the potency and addictiveness of them. Both of these medications produce similar effects in the user, such as drowsiness, overproduction of GABA, forgetfulness, and a state of calm and relaxation. Both of these medications are used to treat disorders such as anxiety, seizures, and used in general anesthesia. However, the medical community has turned to one more often than the other due to the nature of addiction to the medications, and the dangers associated with this addiction. 

What makes barbiturates more dangerous than benzos is how the body reacts to the potency. While both drugs can be habit forming, and create a dependence (addiction) in the user, barbiturates are more potent, making the risk for this dependence higher and more likely. Once the level of dependence is reached, it can be very difficult to stop taking the medication, and once the medication is no longer available, it can lead to some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

It is highly recommended to have these withdrawal symptoms monitored medically to prevent possible life threatening complications, and allow for medical professionals to be able to help in case these complications begin. 

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia

Signs of Addiction to Barbiturates

The signs of abuse and addiction to barbiturates can include things like cognitive impairments, including memory loss, poor decision making, and poor concentration. In some cases, one may need additional mental health treatment while in recovery from addiction to these drugs. These make barbiturates so much more dangerous than benzos due to the level of affect these have on the person. When memory and cognition are impaired, it can be difficult to reverse once the drug is stopped. If you struggle with these drugs, help is available.

Get Help for Barbiturate Addiction in Knoxville, TN

If you or a loved one struggle with barbiturate addiction and feel like there is no way out of it, there is. There is help for this addiction that helps to put you back on a path of freedom and happiness. Discovery Place has a team of professionals that help manage the symptoms of detox and make the process as comfortable as possible. Contact us today and begin your journey toward a life free from addiction.


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