Treatment of Barbiturate Abuse

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 13, 2023
1 min read

There is no home treatment for barbiturate misuse. If you believe someone has taken barbiturates inappropriately, take them to the hospital for evaluation by a doctor. An overdose of barbiturates can be a life-threatening emergency.


  • Barbiturates can cause coma or death if taken inappropriately. This is especially true in children and in elderly persons.
  • Because children are smaller and weigh less than adults, even small doses of barbiturates could be life-threatening.
  • Elderly people can be more sensitive to barbiturates and develop a coma with small doses.



The treatment of barbiturate misuse or overdose is generally supportive. The amount of support required depends on the person's symptoms.


  • If the person is drowsy but awake and can swallow and breathe without difficulty, the treatment may consist of just watching the person closely. This has to be evaluated by a doctor or hospital, not determined at home. 
  • If the person is not breathing, a breathing machine is used to ensure the person can breathe well until the drugs have worn off.
  • Most people receive a liquid form of activated charcoal to bind to any drugs in their stomach. This may be done by placing a tube into the stomach (through the nose or mouth) or by having the person drink it.
  • Most people are admitted to the hospital or are observed in the emergency department for a number of hours. Other treatments depend on the specific situation.