Ahhh Barbiturates; you are a mind melting pleasure compound that can deprive life unworthy of life and give hope to millions by taking away their suffering. The interesting thing about barbiturates is the synthetic ease with which they’re made. If you’ve ever worked with a malonic ester (or any keto acid for that matter), I’ll tell you that the pleasure is all yours. The chemistry on them seems all so simple… why is it mine won’t work? They do NOTHING BUT SIT IN A FLASK AND STARE AT ME!? LAUGHING THEIR ASSES OFF AT ME! STUPID HUMAN THEY SAY! But, that’s just this week’s frustration talking. *ahem* Good thing it’s so easy to make Phenobarbital, a wicked hypnotic and stress reliever. I’ve proposed a little synthesis below that will only give a .00002% yield because that’s just been my luck lately. Take it or leave it, junky.


This was a lot harder to make than I figured it would be going into it.

Let me regale you with a story about Phenobarbital, the drug of the week. Once upon a time people used to get drunk or high on opium or eat bromide salts to make the pain stop. So, Emil Fischer and Joseph von Mering’s discovery of Barbital and, eventually Phenobarbital, put Evil Pharma company Bayer in the perfect position to start being evil. (Actually, bad news for Bayer. There was that whole thing about Zyklon B and being part of some major conglomerate that actually owned its own concentration camp but… you know… what German company wasn’t involved with the Nazis? You know Apple would have been totally front and center if they were there and everyone LOVES Apple.) Anyway, people were dropping dead from overdoses, so when the next safest thing came along everyone got there jollies from it. That home wrecker was none other than the Benzodiazepine. That bitch. Though, it still holds a coveted place on the WHO’s “essential drugs list.”

Barbiturates are like their replacements, benzodiazepines, of which Librium is a previously examined model, (that post has more information in GABA receptor subunits.) Barbiturates are, like benzos, GABAA allosteric modulators. That’s not too odd, given their structural similarity. Pharmacologically, benzos and barbiturates (do they have a “street” slang like Barbos or something??) work on similar subunits of the GABA receptors. Barbiturates appear to work just fine with only the alpha and beta subunits, but benzos need the gama subunit to function properly, apparently. The downside, of course, is that barbiturates are hellatiously easy to OD on, where as benzos can be a bit more difficult to kick off with. In fact, barbiturates are so easy to OD with; we kill people with them on death row today just like the Nazi’s did under Action T4! AUF WIEDERSEHEN UNDESIRABLES, JA!* (Lethal injection in America is done with more than one compound.)


Barbiturates don’t sell too well these days, given their lack of usefulness (they aren’t even that fun to abuse, apparently. Why not just drink? Booze is safer and more fun to enjoy.) Ostensibly this Drug Sunday is about Phenobarbital, but it could have easily been Barbital, or Pentobarbital or whatever. They’ve all suffered the same fate: near obsolescence. ‘Course, not everyone can enjoy benzodiazepines, so there will always be a need for them… even if it’s just, you know, to execute someone.

*No, the Nazis were still worse. Sorry Chomsky, you loose again.