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Barbiturates Blood Test

Last updated Jan. 26, 2016

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Cameron Neylon

The Barbiturates Blood Test is used to detect barbiturate use and overdose.

What are other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Barbiturate Levels Blood Test
  • Barbiturate Drugs Blood Test

What is the Barbiturates Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Barbiturates are a class of drugs that depress the nervous system. They share a similar chemical structure, formed around barbituric acid, which is the basis for their name
  • Barbiturates are used clinically as anesthetics, sedatives, anti-epileptics, and anti-anxiety drugs. They are also abused for their sleep-inducing effects
  • Common barbiturate drugs include Fioricet, Amytal, and Nembutal. Barbiturates, such as Amytal, are susceptible to addition. This is because of their tranquilizing and euphoric effects. Hence, barbiturate addiction is often treated long-term with benzodiazepine
  • The Barbiturates Blood Test helps determine the levels of barbiturates in blood. It is used to detect barbiturate use and overdose

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Barbiturates Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing the Barbiturates Blood Test:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sluggishness
  • Altered mental status
  • Coma
  • Abnormal breathing

How is the Specimen Collected for the Barbiturates Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Barbiturates Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process of obtaining blood sample in adults:

  • A band is wrapped around the arm, 3-4 inches above the collection site (superficial vein that lies within the elbow pit)
  • The site is cleaned with 70% alcohol in an outward spiral, away from the zone of needle insertion
  • The needle cap is removed and is held in line with the vein, pulling the skin tight
  • With a small and quick thrust, the vein is penetrated using the needle
  • The required amount of blood sample is collected by pulling the plunger of the syringe out slowly
  • The wrap band is removed, gauze is placed on the collection site, and the needle is removed
  • The blood is immediately transferred into the blood container, which has the appropriate preservative/clot activator/anti-coagulant
  • The syringe and the needle are disposed into the appropriate “sharp container” for safe and hygienic disposal

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the Barbiturates Blood Test Result?

  • A positive Barbiturates Blood Test value may indicate barbiturate use
  • A high test value may indicate barbiturate overdose

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

  • Because of their susceptibility to addiction, barbiturates have largely been replaced in medical use by benzodiazepines
  • Colloquially, barbiturates are known as downers and goofballs

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

The following DoveMed website links are useful resources for additional information:



Please visit our Laboratory Procedures Center for more physician-approved health information:


References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 20, 2019
Last updated: Jan. 26, 2016