Medically Reviewed

Barbiturates Street Names, Slang Terms, and Nicknames

- 6 sections

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Barbiturates, a class of sedative-hypnotic drugs, have a long history of medical use to treat various conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. However, their potential for abuse and addiction has led to stricter regulations and decreased both medical and recreational use over time.

Despite these regulations, barbiturates still find their way into the illicit drug market and into the hands of drug users across the United States. Barbiturate drugs come with a range of street names, slang terms, and nicknames that not only reflect the subculture of drug use, but also the phrases dealers and users utilize to try and conceal their substance abuse.

If you suspect someone you love is abusing drugs of any kind, knowing the different street names they are using can help you identify what drugs they are using and whether or not it’s time to seek help.

What are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates, classified as central nervous system depressants, work by depressing the activity of the brain and nervous system. They were once widely prescribed for their sedative and hypnotic effects to treat conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. However, due to the emergence of safer alternatives and concerns about their potential for overdose and addiction, their medical use has significantly declined over the last few decades. Instead of barbiturates, other sedatives, benzodiazepines, and opioids are used.

Some of the most popular barbiturates are:

  • Phenobarbital (Luminal)
  • Secobarbital (Seconal)
  • Amobarbital (Amytal)
  • Butalbital (Fiorinal, Fioricet)
  • Pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • Barbital (Veronal)

It’s important to note that the misuse of barbiturates can have serious health risks and consequences, including respiratory depression and death. If you or someone you love are abusing barbiturates, please speak to our team at PAX Memphis today to discuss your treatment options.

Common Barbiturate Street Names and Slang Terms

Some of the most common nicknames for barbiturates are:

  • Downers – One of the most common slang terms for barbiturates is “downers.” This term refers to the drugs’ depressant effects on the central nervous system, inducing relaxation, sedation, and, in high doses, potentially dangerous levels of respiratory depression.
  • Blue Bullets – This term refers to the small, often blue-colored tablets or capsules that some barbiturates are manufactured as. The color and shape of the pills contribute to the nickname.
  • Yellow Jackets – Similar to “blue bullets,” “yellow jackets” describe barbiturate pills that are yellow in color. These nicknames can be used to identify specific barbiturate formulations.
  • Rainbows – This term alludes to the colorful range of pills available within the barbiturate class, indicating the variety of colors in which they are manufactured.
  • Barbs – Short for “barbiturates,” this nickname is a straightforward abbreviation used in casual conversations within the drug-using community.
  • BlockBusters – This slang term likely originates from the pills’ potential to induce deep and profound sedation, akin to “blocking out” the outside world.

More Street Names for Barbiturates

While the above-listed street names can be used to refer to any drug belonging to the barbiturate class, each type of barbiturate may have its own unique nickname. For example:

  • Amobarbital is sometimes called “blue heaven” or “blue velvet” because the pills are blue and produce a warm, relaxing feeling.
  • Phenobarbital is sometimes called “goofballs” because of its euphoric effects.
  • Secobarbital may be called “reds” or “red devils” because the pills are often red in color.
  • Pentobarbital may be called “yellows” or “yellow jackets” because they are yellow in color.
  • Tuinal, a rare but potent barbiturate, is sometimes called “rainbows” or “double trouble” because of its strong effects

Drug street names can also vary from one geographical area to the next, with different areas adopting different slang terms. For example, in Australia common slang terms for barbiturates are “flags” and “marshmallow.”

In addition, new street names are always invented, and old ones go out of style over the course of time.

Why Do People Use Slang When Buying Drugs?

People use “drug slang” for several reasons. First and foremost, Slang terms and nicknames can be used to discreetly discuss drug-related topics in public or online spaces while avoiding explicit terminology that might attract unwanted attention. It may also be used by dealers while communicating with buyers in order to avoid mentioning drugs outright.

The Dangers of Barbiturate Abuse and Addiction

Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants that slow down breathing, heart rate, and cognitive function. Common side effects of barbiturates include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Clumsiness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Staggering
  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Weakness
  • Low body temperature
  • Irritability

People who abuse barbiturates regularly may develop physical dependence and tolerance, so not only will they experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using, but they will also need to continually increase the dose they take in order to experience the desired effects. As a result, people who are addicted to barbiturates may take high doses of them, putting themselves at risk of an overdose.

Signs of a barbiturate overdose are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Coma
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately and stay with the person until help arrives.

In the long term, barbiturate abuse and addiction can lead to respiratory issues like bronchitis or pneumonia. It can also cause cardiac issues, sexual dysfunction, poor attention span, reduced cognitive function, memory loss, and problems with motor control.

Find Help for Barbiturate Abuse and Addiction Today

If you or someone you love is addicted to barbiturates, it’s time to get help. Barbiturate abuse can affect the way you think, feel, and behave, ultimately affecting every aspect of your life. But with the right treatment, anyone can recover.

At PAX Memphis Recovery Center our team of qualified addiction specialists can verify your insurance, evaluate your needs, and help you choose the right barbiturate rehab program for you. Get started now by giving us a call.


  1. National Library of Medicine: Barbiturates, Retrieved August 2023 from
  2. Science Direct: Barbiturate, Retrieved August 2023 from
  3. National Library of Medicine: Barbiturate abuse, Retrieved August 2023 from