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Is Xanax A Barbiturate? Understanding the Differences & Effects

Is Xanax a barbiturate? This question lingers with the patients, healthcare providers, or individuals researching medication options for treating conditions like anxiety, insomnia, or seizures. However, Xanax is a benzodiazepine. Benzos, including Xanax (alprazolam), were introduced as supposedly less addictive alternatives to barbiturates, though this has proven to be inaccurate.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 50% of the nearly 176,000 emergency room visits are for benzodiazepine and barbiturates. Both are CNS depressants used to treat insomnia and seizures. They work by affecting gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps reduce stress and calm the nervous system.

Continue reading this article to understand whether is Xanax a barbiturate, what are the withdrawal symptoms, the overdose and addiction.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a benzodiazepine that improves certain chemicals in your brain to help you feel calmer. It’s commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, anxiety linked to depression, and panic disorders, including agoraphobia, which is a fear of places that might trigger panic attacks.

Be extremely cautious about buying Xanax online or from outside the U.S. These sources often ignore FDA safety regulations and can sell dangerous or fake medications, putting your health at serious risk. Always get your prescriptions from trusted, licensed pharmacies to ensure your safety.

However, if the question “Is Xanaz a barbiturate” still lingers with you, continue reading to understand the difference between Benzodiazepines vs Barbiturates.

Benzodiazepines vs. Barbiturates

Apart from treating insomnia and seizures, benzodiazepines (benzos) are used for anxiety, panic disorders, nervousness, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, and sedation during surgery. Barbiturates can also be used for headaches.

Common benzos include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam). Common barbiturates include Seconal (secobarbital), Pentothal (thiopental), and Nembutal (pentobarbital).

The unique side effects of benzos are changes in appetite, constipation, weight gain, dry mouth, decreased libido, and fatigue. The unique side effects of barbiturates include dizziness, headache, and abdominal pain. Shared side effects are confusion, lightheadedness, drowsiness, impaired coordination and memory, nausea, and vomiting.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Abruptly stopping benzodiazepines or barbiturates can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Common withdrawal symptoms for benzos:

  • Difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain and stiffness

Common withdrawal symptoms for barbiturates:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremors and weakness
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Substances That Interact With Benzos And Barbiturates

Combining alcohol with benzodiazepines (benzos) or barbiturates is very dangerous. Alcohol makes these medications work faster and stronger. It’s never safe to drink alcohol or take other depressant drugs with benzos or barbiturates because they can amplify each other’s effects, leading to potentially life-threatening respiratory depression.

Opioids like heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone also increase the risk of severe respiratory depression when combined with benzos or barbiturates. This condition causes slow, shallow, or labored breathing, which can be fatal. Other sedatives, like sleep aids zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta), can also intensify these effects.

Is Xanax A Barbiturate?: Overdose

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, helps with anxiety and panic disorder. But taking too much can be dangerous, especially if mixed with other drugs or alcohol, which can be deadly. Xanax works by calming the brain through a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

It’s really important to tell your doctor about any other medicines you’re taking with Xanax. Mixing it with opioid pain meds or alcohol raises the risk of a severe or even deadly overdose. So, if you’re on Xanax, always talk to your doctor about safer options for managing anxiety and panic disorders.

People Abusing Xanax

For years, there’s been a sharp rise in people going to drug treatment centers in the US due to sedative or tranquilizer use, including Xanax. This increase matches the surge in legal prescriptions for Xanax and similar drugs during the same time, hinting that more availability of these medications might be leading to more abuse.

There’s some good news: treatment admissions for Xanax abuse have leveled off, and fewer people report using Xanax for non-medical reasons lately. It might mean that the worst of Xanax abuse is over, but we’re not sure if this trend will continue.

Is Xanax A Barbiturate?: Addiction

Benzos and barbiturates, used to treat various conditions, can lead to addiction if abused for too long. Abuse can lead to sleep problems, irritability, and memory issues, with addiction signs like nausea and restlessness. Quitting suddenly can be dangerous, causing withdrawal symptoms like alcohol withdrawal. Doctors can help with a gradual reduction plan to ease withdrawal and cravings.

Both benzos and barbiturates, while helpful for some conditions, pose risks of addiction if taken long-term. Tolerance can build up, requiring higher doses for the same effect. Many people, including young adults, abuse these drugs for the high they provide.

This misuse can result in sleep problems, irritability, and memory impairment, with signs of addiction including nausea and restlessness. Abrupt cessation is dangerous due to withdrawal symptoms similar to alcohol withdrawal. Doctors can assist with a gradual reduction plan to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings safely.

Treatment For Addiction To Barbiturates

Although barbiturate abuse has decreased over the years, addiction is still a risk. Benzos are more commonly abused due to their habit-forming nature, even with short-term use.

You can get treatment from specialized recovery centers that help you achieve long-term sobriety. The treatment options include:

  • Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment
  • Group Discussions
  • Outpatient Care
  • Inpatient Care

These treatments are customized and tailored to patient situations. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction to Xanax, other benzos, or barbiturates, reach out for help today.

FAQs: Is Xanax A Barbiturate?

Que: Has Xanax abuse increased in the US?

Ans: Yes, since 2006, more people have been admitted to drug treatment centers for Xanax and similar drugs, possibly due to increased legal prescriptions. However, recent data suggests a decline in non-medical Xanax use, indicating a possible decrease in abuse.

Que: Is Xanax A Barbiturate?

Ans: No, Xanax (alprazolam) is not a barbiturate. It’s a benzodiazepine, which increases the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.

Que: What barbiturates are FDA-approved?

Ans: Phenobarbital, methohexital, butalbital, pentobarbital, primidone, and amobarbital.

Que: Is Xanax for depression?

Ans: Sometimes, doctors prescribe Xanax off-label for depression, especially in higher doses for short periods.

Que: Can Xanax improve mood?

Ans: Yes, Xanax is occasionally used to treat depression because it can calm brain activity, leading to feelings of euphoria and contentment. However, when Xanax is stopped, some people may experience a rebound depression.


This article has resolved the mystery of “Is Xanax A Barbiturate? Benzos and barbiturates are CNS depressants used to treat insomnia and seizures. Benzos are also used for anxiety, panic disorders, muscle spasms, and more, while barbiturates can treat headaches.

Both are often abused; benzos can be addictive, and barbiturates are habit-forming. If you’re in the US and need support, reach out to American Addiction Centers (AAC) AAC at 877-670-3065 for assistance on your path to recovery.

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