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Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: A List of What You Need to Know

Around 20% of American adults live with a mental illness. Out of these 52.9 million people, many seek professional help from therapists. From there, they may refer them to a psychiatrist for prescription medication.

Two common medications used for mental health issues are barbiturates and benzodiazepines. While they can be extremely beneficial, they can also be easily abused. So it’s a good idea to educate yourself on these drugs.

Here’s a guide to barbiturates vs. benzodiazepines.

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are a type of central nervous system depressant. Their main job is to slow down brain activity, which can help with anxiety disorders.

Barbs have a sedating effect. So they can also be used for seizures, headaches, migraines, and head trauma. In addition, they can be a muscle relaxant.

Some common barbiturates are aspirin and caffeine. Others are secobarbital (Seconal), thiopental (Pentothal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), and butalbital.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are also a central nervous system depressant, so they have sedating effects too.

This medication can be prescribed for anxiety disorders and panic disorders. Other uses are for muscle spasms, seizures, and insomnia. You can even use it for premenstrual syndrome and alcohol withdrawal.

There’s been the glamorization of benzo use, which has encouraged recreational use.

Common benzodiazepines are lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and alprazolam (Xanax). There are also temazepam (Restoril), and diazepam (Valium).

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: Similarities

Both barbs and benzos are central nervous system depressants. They’re available by prescription only. This means they’re both regulated by the FDA and DEA.

You can use both to treat certain health issues, like anxiety and seizures.

Unfortunately, both have the potential for abuse and addiction. People can experience highs from misusing these drugs. Whether you use them as prescribed or abuse these drugs, you might experience withdrawal symptoms.

Barbiturates vs. Benzodiazepines: Differences

You may experience different side effects on each medication. For instance, barbs can make you dizzy and have headaches and stomach pain. On the other hand, benzos can give you dry mouth, constipation, fatigue, and memory issues.

Withdrawal symptoms will differ too. You’ll get agitation, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, and a fast heart rate with the former. With the latter, you’ll get anxiety, headaches, insomnia, concentration problems, hand tremors, vomiting, and muscle pain.

Generally, barbs are much strong than benzos. This is why many medical professionals prescribe the former over the latter now. Because of that, there’s more risk if you mix them with other substances.

Plus, benzodiazepines work by enhancing the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Barbs don’t work in this fashion.

Know the Difference Between These Drugs

While both drugs are central nervous system depressants, there are some differences between barbiturates vs. benzodiazepines.

If used correctly, these medications can improve your life. But both have the potential for abuse and addiction, so be careful. If you ever have questions or concerns about your medications, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.

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