3 Reasons why Barbiturate Abuse has Increased Among Teens

By Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics

Teens and barbiturate abuse


In the last 10 years, Barbiturate Abuse has increased among teens. According to high school surveys, about 8% of teens abuse barbiturates. At the same time, barbiturate abuse by adults has decreased.

3 Reasons why Barbiturate Abuse has Increased Among Teens

Barbiturates used to be prescribed for things like anxiety and insomnia, but they have been replaced by safer medications. Because barbiturates are not as freely prescribed, they are not as easy to acquire as they were years ago, and therefore adult abuse has gone down. Teens however, have not followed this pattern.

What are barbiturates?

BarbituratesBarbiturates are sedatives or “downers” that give their user a relaxed feeling. They are still prescribed for conditions such as epilepsy and sometimes used before surgery.

Even though barbiturates are not as easily obtained by prescription, they can be obtained illegally. Teens find access to all kinds of illegal prescription and non-prescription drugs. Sometimes, it’s right in their parent’s medicine cabinets!

Why do teens abuse barbiturates?

The effects of barbiturates are similar to the effects of alcohol but without the telltale alcohol smell that clings to breath and clothing. Therefore, they can be an attractive option for teens looking to feel “happy” and “relaxed.” There are 3 main reasons that teens abuse barbiturates:

1. Teens abuse barbiturates or “downers” to counteract other drugs.

Stimulants such as meth or cocaine can leave their users extra alert, restless, anxious and even agitated. To mask the symptoms of these stimulants, teens will take barbiturates. It is important to note that mixing drugs increases the risks of overdosing and serious organ failure which can lead to death.

2. Teens are too young to remember the repercussions of barbiturate abuse from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.

Before the less addictive and risky benzodiazepines, such as Valium, were released, barbiturates were popular from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. During this time period, there were a high number of overdoses resulting in many deaths. While many adults can remember this surge of overdoses and why these potent barbiturates are prescribed less and less, teens do not know this information.

3. Barbiturates are often used in suicide attempts.

Barbiturates are far more lethal than many prescription drugs such as sleeping pills. Even after taking a large number of sleeping pills, death may not occur, but barbiturates are strong and lethal. Therefore, they are appealing because they offer a more successful suicide. They also offer a more “peaceful” suicide than many other methods.

To learn more about barbiturates, the names, street names and side effects and risks, visit our Barbiturates page.


Signs of barbiturate abuse in teens

Depressed Teen Barbiturate Abuse


Teens addicted to barbiturates may spend hours alone and change groups of friends, and they may have major mood swings, becoming agitated and anxious when they are not high. Look for the following signs of possible barbiturate abuse:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tendency to be withdrawn for long periods of time
  • Slurred speech
  • Staggered walk
  • Mood swings


 How to Get Help

As a parent, loved one or friend, there are things you can do to get help. You can speak to a teen you suspect is taking barbiturates. There is a FREE resource available online from uVera Diagnostics. Click here to read about and download Addressing Teenage Substance Abuse: A Parent’s Guide.

Barbiturates are dangerous drugs to abuse. If you know someone who is abusing barbiturates try to get help! You can find treatment centers in your area by visiting SAMHSA.org. uVera Diagnostics can help you confirm barbiturate abuse with at home drug testing kits.


If you have experienced Barbiturate Abuse by a loved one, friend or by your own actions, share your story by sending us a comment below.


uVera Diagnostics sells drug testing supplies for use at home or the workplace. For more information on drug testing or to buy drug testing kits call 1-866-242-5930, or browse our drug testing products by drug by clicking here. Click here to buy drug testing kits that test for barbiturates.


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Posted by Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics and Co-designer and Developer of the CR3 split-sample drug test cup. Bill has 25 years in sales management and marketing and is a 10 year veteran of the drug testing industry. As a parent and co-worker, Bill’s energy is focused on drug testing on every level. Addiction is all around us in alcohol, prescriptions and street drugs, and that is a constant reminder a drug free society starts with each and every one of us.

For more information on drug testing, click here or call 1-866-242-5930.

This information is meant for awareness and education purposes only. Any medical or life saving advice should come from experts. Always consult with your physician about any and all drugs.

Sources: webmd.com, teen-drug-abuse.org

Photos courtesy of:  FreeDigitalPhotos.com by Ambro (group of teens) David Castillo Dominici (depressed teen)

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