How Long Do Barbiturates Stay In Your System?

Barbiturates are detectable in the body for up to 15 days when they are routinely abused. People who use barbiturates less frequently are likely to have a shorter detection window.

Barbiturates are a class of drug that are only prescribed to treat migraines, acute seizures, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and as a general medical anesthetic.

However, while barbiturates have been largely replaced by benzodiazepines in widespread use, barbiturates are still abused today, often resulting in dependence, addiction, and/or life-threatening overdose.

Barbiturates can be detected in your system from three to 15 days after last use, depending on the type of drug test.

Barbiturate Detection Times

Urine drug testing is the most common form of drug testing in the United States today, though other tests are used in certain settings.

Rough detection times for barbiturates (or their metabolites) are as follows:

  • urine tests: up to 15 days after last use
  • blood tests: up to 3 days
  • saliva tests: up to 3 days
  • hair follicle testing: up to 90 days, though hair drug testing is unusual and potentially unreliable.

Factors Impacting Barbiturate Detection Periods

The amount of time it takes for barbiturates to be metabolized by the body so it won’t be detectable in a drug screening varies based on a number of different factors.

Factors that affect detection periods include:

  • the specific barbiturate drug used
  • the size of the last dose
  • the length of time barbiturates have been used or abused
  • frequency of use
  • hydration level
  • total body mass and body composition
  • gender
  • age
  • liver health
  • use of other drugs

How Long Barbiturates Stay Active In Your Body

Different types of barbiturates vary significantly in their lengths of effect, which range between ultra-short acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting.

Ultra-Short Acting Barbiturates

These drugs are taken intravenously in a medical setting and produce anesthesia within a minute of use. They include methohexital (Brevital), thiamylal (Surital), and thiopental (Pentothal).

The length of effect of an ultra-short acting barbiturate ranges between 5 and 30 minutes.

Short-Acting Barbiturates

These drugs take effect between 15 to 40 minutes after oral ingestion, causing sedation. They include pentobarbital (Nembutal) and secobarbital (Amytal).

The length of effect of a short-acting barbiturate ranges between 3 and 5 hours.

Intermediate-Acting Barbiturates

These drugs take around an hour to take effect and also cause sedation. They include amobarbital (Amytal Sodium), and butalbital (Esgic).

The length of effect of intermediate-acting barbiturates ranges from 6 to 8 hours.

Long-Acting Barbiturates

These drugs can take up to an hour to take effect after oral use and provide anti-convulsant (anti-seizure) and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. Long-acting barbiturates include phenobarbital (Luminal) and mephobarbital (Mebaral).

The length of effect of these barbiturates is up to 12 hours per dose.

Barbiturate Half-Lives

Shorter-acting barbiturates have a short half-life (the amount of time it takes to remove one half of one dose from the body) while longer-acting barbiturates will have a much longer half-life.

It takes around four or five half-lives for most types of drugs to be effectively removed from the body, ending its effect. However, drugs and their metabolites may still be detectable after their effects are no longer felt, especially following a long period of drug abuse.

Barbiturate Abuse & Overdose

In modern times, benzodiazepine drugs like Valium and Xanax are far more common than barbiturates. While generally considered safer, these newer drugs have become common targets for substance abuse and drug addiction.

However, a variety of barbiturates are still diverted and abused today, resulting in cases of barbiturate addiction and overdose. This is worrying, as barbiturates are known for being highly addictive and more toxic than benzodiazepines during overdose events.

Barbiturate Abuse

Barbiturates are abused for different reasons, including for the purpose of self-medication and, in higher doses, to get high. However, barbiturates are incredibly habit forming, and dependence and/or addiction can develop in as little as two weeks with regular use.

Common street names for various barbiturate drugs include Barbs, Yellow Jackets, Blockbusters, Downers, Goofballs, Reds and Yellows, Red Devils, and others.

Barbiturate Overdose

Barbiturate overdoses are extremely dangerous, as the drugs are frequently used for veterinary euthanasia, as well as for lethal injection.

This danger increases dramatically when barbiturate drugs are used in combination with other central nervous system depressants, including alcohol, opioids/opiates, and benzodiazepines.

These drugs all work by increasing the effect of the GABA neurotransmitter (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain, slowing physical and mental activity to cause relaxation and sedation.

In the event of a barbiturate overdose, individuals may display key signs and symptoms including:

  • slow, shallow, or gasping breaths
  • mental confusion
  • drowsiness
  • incoordination
  • slow, slurred speech
  • blue-tinted fingers and lips
  • loss of consciousness

In the event of a barbiturate overdose, immediately call for medical assistance and provide first aid until they arrive.

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one struggle with barbiturate abuse and are ready to begin the recovery process, contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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