Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Nonbarbiturate Hypnotic
Uses For This Medicine
Paraldehyde is used to treat certain convulsive disorders. It also has been used in the treatment of alcoholism and in the treatment of nervous and mental conditions to calm or relax patients who are nervous or tense and to produce sleep. However, paraldehyde has generally been replaced by safer and more effective medicines for the treatment of alcoholism and in the treatment of nervous and mental conditions.
Paraldehyde is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before Using This Medicine
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For paraldehyde, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to paraldehyde or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Although there is no specific information comparing use of paraldehyde in children with use in other age groups, paraldehyde is not expected to cause different side effects or problems in children than it does in adults.
Many medicines have not been studied specifically in older people. Therefore, it may not be known whether they work exactly the same way they do in younger adults or if they cause different side effects or problems in older people. There is no specific information comparing use of paraldehyde in the elderly with use in other age groups.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with Medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking paraldehyde, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using paraldehyde with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using paraldehyde with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Using paraldehyde with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with Food/Tobacco/Alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Other Medical Problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of paraldehyde. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Alcohol abuse (or history of) or
- Drug abuse or dependence (or history of)—Dependence on paraldehyde may develop
- Colitis—Paraldehyde used rectally may make the condition worse
- Emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, or other chronic lung disease, or
- Liver disease—Higher blood levels of paraldehyde may occur, increasing the chance of side effects
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) or
- Stomach ulcer—Paraldehyde taken by mouth may make the condition worse
Proper Use of This Medicine
Use paraldehyde only as directed by your doctor. Do not use more of it, do not use it more often, and do not use it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. If too much is used, the medicine may become habit-forming.
Do not use if liquid turns brownish in color or if it has a strong vinegar-like odor, since this means the paraldehyde is breaking down. If you have any questions about this, check with your health care professional.
For patients taking paraldehyde by mouth:
- Do not use a plastic spoon, plastic glass, or any other plastic container to take paraldehyde, since paraldehyde may react with the plastic. Use a metal spoon or glass container.
- Take paraldehyde mixed in a glass of milk or iced fruit juice to improve the taste and odor and to lessen stomach upset.
For patients using paraldehyde rectally:
- Do not use paraldehyde in any plastic container since it may react with the plastic.
- Before using paraldehyde rectally, make sure you understand exactly how to use it. Paraldehyde may need to be diluted. If you have any questions about this, check with your health care professional.
Keep paraldehyde away from the eyes and avoid getting it on the skin and clothing.
Keep paraldehyde away from heat, open flame, and sparks.
The dose of paraldehyde will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of paraldehyde. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral and rectal dosage forms (liquid):
- Adults: Dose must be determined by your doctor.
- Children: Dose is based on body weight, and must be determined by the doctor.
- For injection dosage form:
- Adults: Dose must be determined by your doctor. It will be injected into a muscle or a vein.
- Children: Dose is based on body weight, and must be determined by the doctor.
If you miss a dose of paraldehyde, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Precautions While Using This Medicine
If you will be using paraldehyde regularly for a long time:
- Your doctor should check your progress at regular visits.
- Do not stop using it without first checking with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to reduce gradually the amount you are using before stopping completely.
Paraldehyde will add to the effects of alcohol and other CNS depressants (medicines that slow down the nervous system, possibly causing drowsiness). Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for hay fever, other allergies, or colds; sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicine; prescription pain medicine or narcotics; barbiturates; medicine for seizures; muscle relaxants; or anesthetics, including some dental anesthetics. Check with your doctor before taking any of the above while you are using paraldehyde.
Before you have any medical tests, tell the medical doctor in charge that you are taking paraldehyde. The results of some tests, such as the metyrapone test and the phentolamine test, may be affected by paraldehyde.
If you think you or someone else may have taken an overdose of paraldehyde, get emergency help at once. Taking an overdose of paraldehyde or taking alcohol or other CNS depressants with paraldehyde may lead to unconsciousness and possibly death. Some signs of an overdose are confusion, muscle tremors, nausea or vomiting (continuing or severe), severe stomach cramps, severe weakness, shortness of breath or slow or troubled breathing, and slow heartbeat.
Paraldehyde may cause some people to become drowsy or less alert than they are normally. Even if taken at bedtime, it may cause some people to feel drowsy or less alert on arising. Make sure you know how you react to paraldehyde before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert.
This Medicine Side Effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- Coughing (with injection only)
- skin rash
- Redness, swelling, or pain at injection site
With long-term use
- Yellow eyes or skin
Symptoms of overdose
- Cloudy urine
- decreased urination
- fast and deep breathing
- muscle tremors
- nausea or vomiting (continuing or severe)
- nervousness, restlessness, or irritability
- shortness of breath or slow or troubled breathing
- slow heartbeat
- stomach cramps (severe)
- weakness (severe)
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- nausea or vomiting (when taken by mouth)
- stomach pain (when taken by mouth)
- unpleasant breath odor
- Clumsiness or unsteadiness
- ``hangover'' effect
After you stop using paraldehyde, it may still produce some side effects that need attention. During this period of time, check with your doctor immediately if you notice the following side effects:
- Convulsions (seizures)
- hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there)
- increased sweating
- muscle cramps
- nausea and vomiting
- stomach cramps
Paraldehyde will cause your breath to have a strong unpleasant odor. This effect will last until about one day after you have stopped using paraldehyde.
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
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