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barbiturate

barbiturate (bärbĬch´ərāt´), any one of a group of drugs that act as depressants on the central nervous system. High doses depress both nerve and muscle activity and inhibit oxygen consumption in the tissues. In low doses barbiturates act as sedatives, i.e., they have a tranquilizing effect; increased doses have a hypnotic or sleep-inducing effect; still larger doses have anticonvulsant and anesthetic activity. The mechanism of action on the central nervous system is not known. The barbiturates are all derivatives of barbituric acid, which was first prepared in 1864 by the German organic chemist Adolf von Baeyer.

The drugs differ widely in the duration of their action, which depends on the rapidity with which they are distributed in body tissues, degraded, and excreted. Ultrashort-acting barbiturates such as thiopental sodium (Pentothal) are often used as general anesthetics. Secobarbital (Seconal) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal) are short-acting barbiturates, amobarbital (Amytal) is intermediate in duration of action, and phenobarbital (Luminal) is a long-acting derivative.

Barbiturates are used to relax patients before surgery, as anticonvulsants, and as sleeping pills. They also are commonly abused. Taken regularly, barbiturates can be psychologically and physically addictive (see drug addiction and drug abuse). Barbiturate addicts must be withdrawn from the drug gradually to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms such as convulsions. Overdose can cause coma or death. In the United States the manufacture and distribution of barbiturates were brought under federal control by the 1965 Drug Abuse and Control Act, and they are legally available only by prescription.

See publications of the Drugs & Crime Data Center and Clearinghouse, the Bureau of Justice Statistics Clearinghouse, and the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information.

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barbiturate

barbiturate Any one of a group of drugs derived from barbituric acid, which have a depressant effect on the central nervous system. Barbiturates were originally used as sedatives and sleeping pills but their clinical use is now limited due to their toxic side-effects; prolonged use can lead to addiction. Specific barbiturates in clinical use include butobarbital, used to treat insomnia, and thiopental, used as an anaesthetic.

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barbiturate

barbiturate (bar-bit-yoor-ăt) n. any of a group of drugs, derived from barbituric acid, that depress activity of the central nervous system. Because barbiturates produce psychological and physical dependence and have serious toxic side-effects (see barbiturism), their use has declined. See amobarbital, butobarbital, phenobarbital, thiopental.

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barbiturate

barbiturate Drug used as a sedative or to induce sleep. Highly addictive and dangerous in high doses, or in combination with other drugs such as alcohol or tranquillizers, most barbiturates are no longer prescribed. Short-acting barbiturates are used in surgery to induce general anaesthesia; long-acting formulations are prescribed for epilepsy.

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barbiturate

bar·bi·tu·rate / bärˈbichərit; -əˌrāt/ • n. any of a class of sedative and sleep-inducing drugs derived from barbituric acid. ∎ Chem. a salt or ester of barbituric acid.

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barbiturate

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