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Drugs of Abuse

Drug Type: Depressants

Two of the major classes of depressants include barbiturates and benzodiazepines. These drugs are used to treat several conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders and depression.

Other Names: Barbiturates: Barbies, barbs, sleeping pills, downers

Benzodiazepines: Tranks, tranquilizers, benzos

What it looks like: Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are pills, tablets or capsules legally produced by pharmaceutical companies for distribution in the United States. They are rarely produced in clandestine labs. The drugs come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but can be identified by what is imprinted on them. The imprint, a series of letters or numbers, or a name, represents the manufacturer and the brand name or active ingredient of the drug. The imprint should be interpreted with the assistance of a pharmacist or with a Physician’s Desk Reference.

Commonly abused barbiturates: phenobarbital, amobar-bital (Amytal), pentobarbital (Nembutal, "yellow jackets") secobar-bital (Seconal, "red devils," "rainbows"), butalbital (Fiorinal, Fioricet)

Commonly abused benzodiazepines: alprazolam (Xanax, "xanzibars," "xannies"), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), triazalam (Halcion)

How it is used:

  • Ingested
  • Some of the drugs come in injectable clear liquids

Effect of the drug:

  • Relieves stress/tension/anxiety
  • Drowsiness/lethargy/slowed reflexes
  • Euphoria
  • Tranquility
  • Sedation/induces sleep

Negative Effects/Overdose Effects:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Excess sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision/dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Confusion/paranoia
  • Heart, nerve, or kidney damage
  • Coma
  • Death

Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, tremors, weakness, anxiety Withdrawal can be fatal and should be medically supervised. Death from overdose with benzodiazepines is not likely unless the drugs are mixed with alcohol or other drugs.

What to look for:

  • Signs of intoxication as if "drunk" but without the odor of alcohol
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Frequent doctor visits
  • Multiple prescriptions for the same drug

Paraphernalia Associated with Drug Use:

Prescription pill bottles. The pill bottles should be checked to see if drug listed on the label is the drug contained inside the bottle. Make sure person in possession of the prescription pill bottle is the person listed on the prescription. If prescription label has been scratched off, it is a good indicator that the bottle was illegally purchased or stolen.

Potential for Abuse: Barbiturate use is very dangerous because the body builds tolerance to the drugs over time. The user must increase the dosage to get the desired effect, however the amount of barbiturates that will cause death remains the same. This means that a heavy user risks death with every dose. Benzodiazepines and barbiturates can be fatal when mixed with alcohol. Over 3 million Americans abuse benzodiazepines and barbiturates every year, often without medical supervision. About 5,000 deaths and tens of thousands of emergency room visits result each year from barbiturate overdoses. (Source: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) It is estimated that in 1999, 8.9% of 12th graders in the United States have used barbiturates or benzodiazepines at some time. (Source: Monitoring the Future study, 1999)

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