Secobarbital is used on a short-term basis to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep). It is also used to relieve anxiety before surgery. Secobarbital is in a class of medications called barbiturates. It works by slowing activity in the brain.
Secobarbital comes as a capsule to take by mouth. When secobarbital is used to treat insomnia, it is usually taken at bedtime as needed for sleep. When secobarbital is used to relieve anxiety before surgery, it is usually taken 1 to 2 hours before surgery. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take secobarbital exactly as directed.
Your sleep problems should improve within 7 to 10 days after you start taking secobarbital. Call your doctor if your sleep problems do not improve during this time, if they get worse at any time during your treatment, or if you notice any changes in your thoughts or behavior.
Secobarbital should normally be taken for short periods of time. If you take secobarbital for 2 weeks or longer, secobarbital may not help you sleep as well as it did when you first began to take the medication. If you take secobarbital for a long time, you may also develop dependence ('addiction,' a need to continue taking the medication) on secobarbital. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking secobarbital for 2 weeks or longer. Do not take a larger dose of secobarbital, take it more often, or take it for a longer time than prescribed by your doctor.
Do not stop taking secobarbital without talking to your doctor. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually. If you suddenly stop taking secobarbital, you may develop anxiety, muscle twitching, uncontrollable shaking of your hands or fingers, weakness, dizziness, changes in vision, nausea, vomiting, or difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or you may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures or extreme confusion.
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Before taking secobarbital,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to secobarbital; other barbiturates such as amobarbital (Amytal, in Tuinal), butabarbital (Butisol), pentobarbital, or phenobarbital; any other medications, or any of the ingredients in secobarbital capsules. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: anticoagulants ('blood thinners') such as warfarin (Coumadin); antihistamines; doxycycline (Doryx, Vibramycin; Vibra-tabs); griseofulvin (Fulvicin-U/F, Grifulvin V, Gris-PEG ); hormone replacement therapy; monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate); medications for depression,pain, colds, or allergies; certain medictations for seizures such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakene); muscle relaxants; oral steroids such as dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexone), methylprednisolone (Medrol), and prednisone (Deltasone); sedatives; sleeping pills; and tranquilizers. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had porphyria (condition in which certain natural substances build up in the body and may cause stomach pain, changes in thinking and behavior, and other symptoms); any condition that causes shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; or liver disease. Your doctor will probably tell you not to take secobarbital.
- tell your doctor if you drink or have ever drunk large amounts of alcohol, use or have ever used street drugs, or have overused prescription medications.Also tell your doctor if you have ever thought about killing yourself or tried to do so and if you have or have ever had depression; pain; or kidney disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking secobarbital, call your doctor.
- you should know that secobarbital may decrease the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills, patches, rings, injections, implants, or intrauterine devices). Talk to your doctor about methods of birth control that will work for you while you are taking secobarbital. Tell your doctor if you have a missed period or think you may be pregnant while you are taking secobarbital.
- talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking this medication if you are 65 years of age or older. Older adults should not usually take secobarbital to treat conditions other than seizures because it is not as safe as other medications that can be used to treat the same conditions.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking secobarbital.
- you should know that this medication may make you drowsy during the daytime. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
- do not drink alcohol during your treatment with secobarbital. Alcohol can make the side effects of secobarbital worse.
- you should know that some people who took medications for sleep got out of bed and drove their cars, prepared and ate food, had sex, made phone calls, or were involved in other activities while partially asleep. After they woke up, these people were usually unable to remember what they had done. Call your doctor right away if you find out that you have been driving or doing anything else while you were sleeping.
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
Secobarbital is usually taken at bedtime. If you forget to take secobarbital at bedtime, you are unable to fall asleep, and you will still be able to stay in bed for a full night's sleep, you may take secobarbital at that time. Do not take a double dose of secobarbital to make up for a missed dose.
Secobarbital may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- hallucinating (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
- slow, shallow breathing
- slow heartbeat
- swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
Secobarbital may cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have any unusual problems during your treatment with secobarbital.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at Web Site] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
Store secobarbital in a safe place so that no one else can take it accidentally or on purpose. Keep track of how many capsules are left so you will know if any are missing.
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
Symptoms of overdose may include:
- slowed breathing
- low body temperature
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor may order certain lab tests to check your response to secobarbital.
This prescription is not refillable.
Do not let anyone else take your medication.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.
Selected Revisions: February 1, 2011.