AskDefine | Define Amytal

Dictionary Definition

Amytal n : the sodium salt of amobarbital that is used as a barbiturate; used as a sedative and a hypnotic [syn: amobarbital sodium, blue, blue angel, blue devil]

Extensive Definition

Amobarbital (formerly known as amylobarbitone) is a drug that is a barbiturate derivative. It has sedative-hypnotic and analgesic properties. It is a white crystalline powder with no odor and a slightly bitter taste. If amobarbital is taken for extended periods of time, physical and psychological dependence can develop.


According to an in vitro study conducted at the University of British Columbia, amobarbital works by activating GABAA receptors, which decreases input resistance, depresses burst and tonic firing, especially in ventrobasal and intralaminar neurons, while at the same time increasing burst duration and mean conductance at individual chloride channels; this increases both the amplitude and decay time of inhibitory postsynaptic currents.
It has an LD50 in mice of 212 mg/kg s.c.


Amobarbital undergoes both hydroxylation to form 3'-hydroxyamobarbital, which has both levorotatory and dextrorotatory isomers and N-glucosidation to form 1-(beta-D-glucopyranosyl)amobarbital.




  • Sodium amobarbital has a reputation for having activity as a truth serum, where the person under the influence of the drug will submit to almost any request given by another person. It has been used to convict alleged murderers such as Andres English-Howard, who strangled his girlfriend to death but claimed innocence. He was surreptitiously administered the drug, by his attorney, and under the influence of it he revealed why he strangled her and under which circumstances. A year later he confessed, on the stand, and was convicted on the basis of these statements; he later committed suicide in his cell. The use of amobarbital as a truth serum has lost credibility due to the discovery that the subject can be coerced into having a 'false memory' of the event. In controlled doses, it is used in the Narco Analysis test to trace crime and criminals in modern forensics.
  • It was also used in the Battle of the Bulge as a healing pill to send people back to the front.
Amobarbital has been known to decrease the effects of hormonal birth control, sometimes to the point of uselessness. Being chemically related to phenobarbital, it might also do the same thing to digitoxin, a cardiac glycoside.
In 1988, Miller et al reported that amobarbital increases benzodiazepine receptor binding in vivo with less potency than secobarbital and pentobarbital (in descending order), but greater than phenobarbital and barbital (in ascending order).


Some side effects of overdose include confusion (severe); decrease in or loss of reflexes; drowsiness (severe); fever; irritability (continuing); low body temperature; poor judgment; shortness of breath or slow or troubled breathing; slow heartbeat; slurred speech; staggering; trouble in sleeping; unusual movements of the eyes; weakness (severe). Death can be a result.

References and End Notes

  1. Controlled Substances in Schedule II Office of Diversion Control, Drug Enforcement Administration.
  2. Controlled Substances in Schedule III Office of Diversion Control, Drug Enforcement Administration.

External links

Amytal in German: Amobarbital
Amytal in Galician: Amobarbital
Amytal in Japanese: アモバルビタール
Amytal in Portuguese: Amobarbital
Amytal in Russian: Амобарбитал
Amytal in Slovenian: Amobarbiton
Amytal in Finnish: Amobarbitaali
Amytal in Swedish: Amobarbital
Amytal in Chinese: 异戊巴比妥
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