Is Xanax a Barbiturate? – Xanax (alprazolam) is not classified as a barbiturate. Rather, Xanax is in a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (benzos). Benzodiazepines and barbiturates are similar-acting central nervous system (CNS) depressants—they both induce drowsiness and are used to treat insomnia and seizures.
Both medications affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that nerves use to communicate with one another. GABA works to control the stress response and reduce activity in the CNS.
Benzodiazepines vs. Barbiturates
In addition to insomnia and seizures, benzos are also used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, nervousness, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, and as sedation during surgery. Barbiturates are also sometimes used to treat headaches.
Common benzos include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). Common barbiturates include secobarbital (Seconal), thiopental (Pentothal), and pentobarbital (Nembutal).
Side effects unique to benzos may include changes in appetite, constipation, unplanned weight gain, dry mouth, decreased libido, and fatigue. Side effects unique to barbiturates may include dizziness, headache, and abdominal pain. Side effects shared by both benzos and barbiturates include confusion, lightheadedness, drowsiness, impaired coordination, impaired memory, nausea, and vomiting.
Withdrawal symptoms can onset when a person abruptly stops using benzodiazepines or barbiturates.
Common withdrawal symptoms for benzos may include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Irritability and anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle pain and stiffness
Common withdrawal symptoms for barbiturates may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Accelerated heart rate
- Tremors and weakness
Substances That Interact with Benzos and Barbiturates
Combining alcohol with a benzo or barbiturate is very dangerous. People who consumed alcohol while taking these medications will feel the effects of alcohol more rapidly.
Moreover, it’s never safe to drink alcohol or take other depressant drugs that have similar effects on the CNS in conjunction with benzos or barbiturates. This is because these substances can amplify the effects of one another and result in profound, possibly life-threatening respiratory depression.
Opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone, produce depressant effects that can increase the risk of severe respiratory depression when combined with benzos or barbiturates. Respiratory depression can lead to slow, shallow, or labored breathing that is inadequate for supplying oxygen to the brain and body—this can result in death. Other sedatives that intensify the effects of other depressants include sleep aids, such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta).
Is Xanax a Barbiturate?: Overdose
Death from overdose is among the highest risk associated with the use of barbiturates or benzos.
Symptoms of an overdose can include:
- Impaired coordination
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty thinking
- Impaired judgment
- Extreme drowsiness
- Shallow breathing
The risk of overdose is generally considered to be higher for barbiturates than for benzos, but excessive use of either type of drug, especially when combined with other CNS depressants, can result in serious complications which can be life-threatening.
Is Xanax a Barbiturate?: Addiction
Both benzos and barbiturates are habit-forming and have the potential for abuse and addiction. If these drugs are used for a prolonged period, tolerance can develop. As tolerance develops, the person will need increasingly higher doses of their drug of choice to treat the targeted health condition or achieve the desired effects.
Often, people abuse drugs such as Xanax to experience a “high.” They are commonly abused by teenagers and young adults who do so by crushing the pills and snorting the powder. Benzos are sometimes abused by older adults who are more likely to receive a legitimate prescription and develop dependence over time.
Abuse of these medications may result in sleep disturbances and nightmares, fatigue, irritability, hostility, and memory impairment. Signs of addiction might also include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and bone and muscle aches.
It is very difficult to recover from an addiction to benzos, such as Xanax, or barbiturates because these drugs alter brain chemistry. Quitting abruptly, or “cold turkey,” is not recommended as it can induce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms similar to those of alcohol.
Doctors or health providers who treat addiction can design a tapering schedule to wean a person off the medication slowly. Likewise, they can mitigate the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings during treatment.
Treatment for Addiction to Benzos or Barbiturates
Although barbiturates are not as readily accessible and abused as they were a few decades ago, addiction is still possible. Benzos abuse and dependence are nevertheless much more common because these drugs can be habit-forming even after a relatively short period of use.
Recovery By The Sea is a specialized recovery center that offers a comprehensive approach to drug and alcohol abuse. We employ a variety of clinically-proven treatments, including behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, counseling, peer group support, and medication-assisted treatment. Our compassionate, highly-skilled staff are dedicated to providing each client with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to recover and sustain long-lasting sobriety and wellness.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction to Xanax, other benzos, or barbiturates, contact us today! We help people free themselves from the cycle of addiction so they can reclaim the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve!