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Barbiturates

Barbs, blues, reds, blues & reds, sleepers, downers, nembies.

Alcoholic Drinks

Common names

Licit:

amytal (amylobarbitone), nembutal (pentobarbitone), phenobarbitol (phenobarbitone), secobarbital, seconal sodium (quinalbarbitone sodium), sodium amytal (amylobarbitone sodium), soneryl (butobarbitone), tuinal (quinalbarbitone sodium & amylobarbitone).

Illicit:

barbs, blues, reds, blues & reds, sleepers, downers, nembies.

Generic name

Barbiturates.

Scientific names

Phenobarbitone, amylobarbitone, amylobarbitone sulphate, butobarbitone, quinalbarbitone.

Action

Central nervous system depressant, sedative.

Drug form

Tablets and capsules of varying strengths and colours.

Medical use

To induce sleep and reduce anxiety, to treat epilepsy and nervous insomnia.

Drug effects

Desired:

relaxation, reduced anxiety, euphoria.

Side-effects:

loss of coordination, slurred speech, stupor, confusion.

Risks

Short-term:

accidents, tolerance, overdose which can be fatal, particularly if the barbiturates are mixed with alcohol. If tablets are injected there can be damage to veins with potential for abscesses and gangrene.

Long-term:

dependence, severe withdrawal symptoms including fits which in exceptional cases can lead to death.

Legal status

Class B under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971.

How is it taken?

Orally or tablets may be crushed and injected.

Paraphernalia

If injected, needles and syringes, water, matches or lighter, spoon, tourniquet.

Images

Where does it come from?

Diverted from manufacturers, pharmacies and GPs prescriptions.

Helping services

In the 1970s there were many young injectors of barbiturates in several northern cities, most notably Manchester. Most of these were using drugs diverted from licit manufacture and prescription. Community drug services developed for these young injectors who were also referred to drug dependency clinics. After barbiturates were replaced by Benzodiazepines in the 1980s, the numbers of drug injectors using barbiturates fell rapidly. Today there are very few clients of drug services using barbiturates and most of these are users from the 1970s.
For a description of the different types of drug services choose helping services from here or the main menu.