Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan


  • JoAnn TschanzEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1758


Central nervous system depressants; Sedative-hypnotics


Barbiturates belong to a class of medications known as sedative-hypnotics. Initially they were prescribed for their anxiolytic and relaxing properties. Later, they were also used as anticonvulsants, and shorter-acting forms were developed for use as anesthetics in surgery (Feldman et al. 1997).

Barbiturates affect a subtype of the receptors of the neurotransmitter, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), one of the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Their behavioral effects include relaxation, drowsiness, and feelings of euphoria. However, their widespread effects also result in the depression of reflexes and cardiovascular and respiratory functions, particularly at higher doses (Feldman et al. 1997).

The psychoactive effects of barbiturates increase their risk for drug dependence and abuse. Symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal develop with chronic use. Reportedly, tolerance develops to the...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Readings

  1. Feldman, R. S., Meyer, J. S., & Quenzer, L. F. (1997). Sedative-hypnotic and anxiolytic drugs. In Principles of Neuropsychoparhmacology (pp. 673–729). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.Google Scholar
  2. Martin, K., & Katz, A. (2016). The role of barbiturates for alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Psychosomatics. Epub ahead of print. Mar 2. pii: S0033–3182(16)00041–4.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psym.2016.02.011.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Center for Epidemiologic StudiesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA