Some examples of barbiturates are the drugs pentobarbital (Nembutal), secobarbital, phenobarbital and butabarbital. These drugs range from substances with a high potential for abuse and dependency risk to lower risk for both, says Pharmacology2000.com. Consequently, all barbiturates are only available with a prescription.
There are four groups of barbiturates: ultrashort-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting and long-acting. The longest-acting barbiturates may produce sedative effects for as long as 24 hours.
Ultrashort-acting barbiturates are commonly used to anesthetize patients during short surgeries. Examples of these are methohexital (Brevital) and thiopental (Pentothal). Short- and intermediate-acting barbiturates are generally used for sedative purposes and to control convulsive conditions. Drugs such as pentobarbital (Nembutal) and secobarbital (Seconal) are short-acting, while butabarbital (Butisol) is intermediate-acting. The drugs phenobarbital and mephobarbital (Mebaral) are long-acting barbiturates used to prevent seizures due to epilepsy.
Barbiturates can cause drowsiness and hangover effects as well as long-term adverse effects to sleep ability. Severe breathing complications and even comas may arise with use of barbiturates, explains MedlinePlus.
As of 2015, barbiturates are becoming less commonly used due to their adverse effects, high addictiveness and potentially severe withdrawal symptoms. Physicians instead may choose to prescribe from a safer class of drugs, such as benzodiazepines, according to MedlinePlus.