Knowing the difference between benzodiazepines and barbiturates is important in understanding how it affects the body and mind, while also understanding how to seek treatment for misuse. Learn more about how these prescription drugs can affect you and how to get help if dependence or addiction happen.


A barbiturate is a central nervous system depressant (CNS) used for anything from sedating a person to capital punishment in the justice system. Barbiturates were designed as a form of sleeping pills, to help those with anxiety, which have been used in other ways since then. They are highly addictive both mentally and physically. Barbiturates are most commonly used as general anesthetics under supervised medical care.


Benzodiazepines are also considered a CNS but differ in how sedation occurs. They enhance receptors of neurotransmitters, resulting in a mild sedated physical experience. They can come in three classifications: short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting. Benzodiazepines can be addictive. It is best to avoid drinking while on this medication.


Both barbiturates and benzodiazepines affect the human body similarly. The range of effects can be determined more accurately by dosage versus chemical structure of the drugs. Another similarity between them is they are both volatile to consume if the right dosage cannot be determined. Both drugs are highly addictive and are extremely dangerous. Withdrawal without medical supervision is not recommended as there may be many severe side effects.


Barbiturates are much more potent than benzodiazepines, which is the most significant reason why they were replaced in medical practices. Daytime sedation was one of many breakthroughs to be discovered as benzodiazepines were introduced into the pharmaceutical industry. Barbiturates are more volatile to mix with other substances, medically or not. The toxicity of benzodiazepines has been lowered but it can still have negative side effects, especially for people who struggle with addiction.

The Springboard Center’s addiction treatment programs can help you if you are struggling with benzodiazepine, barbiturate or other addictive disorders. There is no shame in seeking help for dependence and addiction. If you are struggling with addiction, reach out to us for help: 432-620-0255