The early 1900s was a time of medical innovation and the seemingly endless applications for medical barbiturate use opened a new realm of treatment for people who were once deemed untreatable. Schizophrenics, epileptics, and people suffering from psychosis and neurosis were finally able to gain relief from their symptoms. Because of its suppressant nature, barbiturates slowed the brain activity causing schizophrenic delusions and seizures while also allowing patients with severe anxieties to work passed their mental blocks and engage life without fear.As time moved on and more variations of barbiturates were synthesized for medical use, the suppressant was found more common applications as a sleep aids, migraine relief, and medication for anxiety disorders. It was hailed as a completely safe and side effect-free miracle drug in the early years of development, despite stories of dependency, overdose, and withdrawal symptoms. By the mid-1900s prescriptions for barbiturates had reached an all time high with over 16 million written in 1966. The rise in prescriptions also lead to a rise in abuse of the drug. An estimated 2,700 people died between 1959 and 1974 due to the effects of barbiturate use before a campaign in 1975 began to warn of the dangers of barbiturate abuse. This caused the decline in barbiturate prescriptions through the later half of the 20th century as doctors prescribed minor tranquilizers in replacement.
Effects of Barbiturates on the Law
The rise and fall of barbiturate use was mirrored by the darker and more dangerous street use. With the abundance of prescriptions, access to barbiturates was relatively easy to gain. However those who found themselves hooked and could no longer get their prescriptions refilled often turned to illegal suppliers, sometimes pharmacists, nurses and doctors with access to a hospital. The danger here lay in the increased chance of overdosing. Street suppliers and untrained civilians had no way to properly measure the doses and the margin for error between bliss and death was incredibly small. Sharing needles for injectable barbiturates contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDs in the later part of the 1900s. Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Edie Sedgwick were among the casualties of barbiturate overdoses. Despite proven dangers and a conglomeration of deaths rooted in barbiturate abuse, the drug was not deemed dangerous enough for restriction under the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1985. By this point barbiturate abuse was already on the decline with the rise of another deadly drug disguised as medication-- heroin.
Physical and Mental Effects of Barbiturates Abuse
When under the effects of barbiturates, users crave the ‘drunken’ effects such as lack of inhibitions and relief of anxieties. The drug is popular among teens and people with emotional difficulties such as depression and general anxiety. There are a number of negative physical and psychological side effects of barbiturate use, those being:
Lack of motor control
Lowered blood pressure
Slowed heart rate
Dulled, slow thinking
Lack of inhibitions
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