Barbiturates are another type of drug that has been used to treat insomnia and anxiety. Phenobarbital, secobarbital, amobarbital, and tuinal (a combination of amobarbital and secobarbital) are all kinds of barbiturates.

These drugs were common in the 1960s and 1970s, which seems to give them a Valley of the Dolls-type association. Doctors do not prescribe barbiturates to treat insomnia or anxiety much anymore. Instead, they prescribe benzodiazepines for those purposes, although they still prescribe barbiturates to treat epilepsy.

Like benzodiazepines, barbiturates depress the brain and the spinal cord. While they are not positive, scientists believe that barbiturates might bind to spots on nerve cells and disrupt the movement of sodium ions, which disrupts the flow of information from the nerve cell.

Scientists also theorize that barbiturates might bind to spots on cells that are receptive to GABA, the neurotransmitter also instrumental in helping benzodiazepine produce its depressive effects. When barbiturates bind to these spots, they increase the flow of chloride ions and prevent the flow of information from the nerve cells.