With only a small margin of safety in dose between the desired sleep, euphoria and death, there was considerable danger associated with the prescription of these drugs. History shows they fell out of favour with the medical profession once newer, safer sleeping tablets became available.
The Advent of Non-barbiturate Sleeping Pills
The first of the new class of sleeping drugs (the benzodiazepines) was diazepam (Valium), which became available in the early 1960s. These drugs were welcomed by the medical profession as a safe alternative to the barbiturate sleeping tablets. At this time there were many prescribed forms of barbiturates on the market but with the introduction of these new benzodiazepines, the use of the barbiturates steadily declined.
By the mid 1990s, there was only a handful of barbiturate sleeping tablets left; amylobarbital (Amytal) and pentobarbital (Nembutal). Nembutal was withdrawn with little notice in 1998 with Amytal following suit in 2003. Today, the only barbiturate commonly prescribed by doctors is the slow-acting Phenobarbital. This drug still finds a niche in medicine as an anti-convulsant, but is a poor substitute to the specific barbiturate sleeping tablets in providing a reliable, peaceful death.
Barbiturate Use in Veterinary Practice
The veterinary use of the barbiturates has persisted. Nembutal, in particular, is used as an agent for euthanasia. A large dose delivered intravenously, quickly and peacefully ends an animal’s life. This green-dyed form of the drug, known as Lethabarb or Valabarb, is also known as ‘the green dream.’