The hustle and bustle of everyday life creates stress in many people. To reduce stress, some people turn to drugs to bring back a feeling of calm. Alcohol is one drug people use to deal with stress; another class of drugs is called the “barbiturates.” These drugs act to depress the central nervous system and are often called sleeping pills.

The first barbiturates were made in the 1860s by the Bayer laboratories in Germany. In 1903, the first barbiturate (“barbital”) was used in medical practices. In 1912, a common barbiturate, Phenobarbital, was introduced.

There are many different types of barbiturates. The names of some common ones (and brand names) include Pentobarbital (Nembutal), Secobarbital (Seconal), Amobarbital (Amytal) and Phenobarbital (Luminal); slang names for these barbiturates include yellow jackets, reds, blues, Amy’s, and rainbows.

Barbiturates have been used extensively in the past as sedatives. A new group of drugs called “benzodiazepines” has replaced many of the barbiturates. However, barbiturates are still used to treat some types of epilepsy.