phenobarbital



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What is phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital is in a group of drugs called barbiturates (bar-BIT-chur-ates). Phenobarbital slows the activity of your brain and nervous system.

Phenobarbital is used to treat or prevent seizures. It is also used short-term to treat insomnia, or as a sedative before surgery.

Phenobarbital may also be used for other purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital may cause a severe allergic reaction.Stop taking phenobarbital and get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Do not stop using phenobarbital without first talking to your doctor, even if you feel better. You may have increased seizures if you stop using phenobarbital suddenly. You will need to use less and less before you stop the medication completely.

Take phenobarbital only when you are getting ready for several hours of sleep. You may fall asleep very quickly after taking the medicine.

Some people using this medicine have engaged in activity such as driving, eating, or making phone calls and later having no memory of the activity. If this happens to you, stop taking phenobarbital and talk with your doctor about another treatment for your sleep disorder.

Do not use phenobarbital without telling your doctor if you are pregnant. It could cause harm to the unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

Phenobarbital can make birth control pills less effective. Ask your doctor about using a non-hormone method of birth control (such as a condom, diaphragm, spermicide) to prevent pregnancy while taking phenobarbital.

Phenobarbital may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Phenobarbital should never be shared with another person, especially someone who has a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking phenobarbital?

Some people using this medicine have engaged in activity such as driving, eating, or making phone calls and later having no memory of the activity. If this happens to you, stop taking phenobarbital and talk with your doctor about another treatment for your sleep disorder.

Do not take this medication if you are allergic to phenobarbital, or if you have porphyria.

Before taking phenobarbital, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, or if you have:

  • severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), or other breathing disorder
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • an adrenal gland disorder, such as pheochromocytoma
  • a history of depression, mental illness, or suicide attempt; or
  • a history of drug or alcohol addiction.

If you have any of these conditions, you may need a dose adjustment or special tests to safely take phenobarbital.

Phenobarbital may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Phenobarbital should never be shared with another person, especially someone who has a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it.

Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are pregnant. It could cause harm to the unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

Phenobarbital can make birth control pills less effective. Ask your doctor about using a non-hormone method of birth control (such as a condom, diaphragm, spermicide) to prevent pregnancy while taking phenobarbital.

Phenobarbital can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How should I take phenobarbital?

Take this medication exactly as it was prescribed for you. Do not take the medication in larger amounts, or take it for longer than recommended by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

Take phenobarbital only when you are getting ready for several hours of sleep. You may fall asleep very quickly after taking the medicine.

Take this medicine with a full glass of water.

Measure the liquid form of phenobarbital with a special dose-measuring spoon or cup, not a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

If you are taking this medicine to treat insomnia, take it only at bedtime. Do not use phenobarbital for longer than 2 weeks to treat insomnia, unless your doctor has told you to.

Do not change your dose of phenobarbital without your doctor's advice. Tell your doctor if the medication does not seem to work as well in treating your condition.

If you are taking phenobarbital to treat seizures, keep taking the medication even if you feel fine. You may have increased seizures or withdrawal symptoms if you stop using phenobarbital suddenly. You will need to use less and less before you stop the medication completely.

Store phenobarbital at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Keep track of how many pills have been used from each new bottle of this medicine. Phenobarbital is a drug of abuse and you should be aware if any person in the household is using this medicine improperly or without a prescription.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the medicine at your next regularly scheduled time. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have used too much of this medicine. An overdose of phenobarbital can be fatal.

Overdose symptoms may include slow or shallow breathing, blurred vision, extreme drowsiness, urinating less than usual or not at all, feeling light-headed, or fainting.

What should I avoid while taking phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.

Avoid using other medicines that make you sleepy (such as cold medicine, sleeping pills, pain medication, muscle relaxers, and medicine to treat depression or anxiety). They can add to sleepiness caused by phenobarbital.

Avoid drinking alcohol. It can increase some of the side effects of phenobarbital.

What are the possible side effects of phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital may cause a severe allergic reaction.Stop taking phenobarbital and get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • restless muscle movements in your eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck
  • slow heartbeat, shallow breathing
  • feeling light-headed, fainting
  • a fever or a sore throat
  • sores in your mouth
  • easy bruising or bleeding; or
  • broken blood vessels under your skin.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • drowsiness or dizziness
  • problems with memory or concentration
  • excitement, irritability, aggression, or confusion (especially in children or older adults)
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • nausea, constipation
  • headache; or
  • "hangover" effect (drowsiness the day after a dose).

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect phenobarbital?

Before taking phenobarbital, tell your doctor if you are using any of the following drugs:

  • doxycycline (Adoxa, Doryx, Mondox, Oracea, Vibramycin, and others)
  • other seizure medications such as divalproex (Depakote), phenytoin (Dilantin), or valproic acid (Depakene)
  • an MAO inhibitor such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam), or tranylcypromine (Parnate)
  • griseofulvin (Grisactin, Fulvicin PG, Grifulvin V)
  • birth control pills or estrogen hormone replacement, including estrogen (Premarin), estradiol (Estrace, Femtrace, and others), progesterone (Progest, Prometrium), and others
  • steroids such as prednisone (Orasone, Deltasone), prednisolone (Prelone, Delta Cortef), methylprednisolone (Medrol), and others.

This is not a complete list and there may be other drugs that can interact with phenobarbital. Tell your doctor about all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you use. This includes vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and drugs prescribed by other doctors. Do not start using a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

Your pharmacist can provide more information about phenobarbital.


Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.