Barbiturates: Reactions with other drugs or substances

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 6:13 am


From the 1940s on, people took amphetamines, the highly addictive drugs referred to as “uppers,” during the day. They used amphetamines to increase their energy and to relieve the effects of barbiturates. Those effects could include sleepiness and hangover symptoms.

By evening, people who still experienced the effects of the amphetamines turned to “downers,” the street name for barbiturates. People took downers to slow down and sleep. In the morning, the drug-taking cycle started again. The person took an upper to counteract the effects of the downer.

Barbiturates are frequently taken in combination with amphetamines. Amphetamines are highly addictive drugs known as “uppers” since they increase energy. They are used to counteract the “downer” effect of barbiturates that induce sleep. This cycle is very dangerous. Both types of drug are addictive and can lead to tolerance. The combination of amphetamine use during the day and barbiturate use as night results in a synergy of the two drugs, which lowers the amount of the drug that is fatal. There is also synergy when a person uses barbiturates and consumes alcohol.

The person combining drugs does not know what dosage of the combination will be lethal. As a result, someone using a barbiturate could die after taking a prescribed dose of an amphetamine.

Barbiturates and other medications

Medications can cause adverse reactions for the person taking barbiturates. Tranquilizers and antihistamines depress the brain’s control over breathing. This could increase the chance of respiratory failure when someone uses barbiturates.

Barbiturates may counteract the effects of birth control pills that contain estrogen. A woman taking those oral contraceptives may become pregnant after taking barbiturates.


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