Skip to main content


Generic name: butabarbital [ byoo-ta-BAR-bi-tal ]
Brand names: Butisol Sodium, Busodium
Drug class: Barbiturates

What is butabarbital?

Butabarbital is a barbiturate (bar-BIT-chur-ate). Butabarbital slows the activity of your brain and nervous system.

Butabarbital is used as a sedative. Butabarbital is also used short-term to treat insomnia, or as a sedative before surgery.

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

Important Information

You should not use butabarbital if you have porphyria.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use butabarbital if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system).

To make sure butabarbital is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • a chronic pain condition, such as fibromyalgia;

  • new or sudden pain that is not already being treated with medication;

  • liver disease;

  • any type of breathing problem;

  • a history of depression, mental illness, or suicide attempt; or

  • an allergy to aspirin, or any kind of yellow dye (coloring in food or medicines).

Do not use butabarbital if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Butabarbital may cause withdrawal symptoms or seizures in your newborn if you take the medication during pregnancy. Use effective birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

Butabarbital can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How should I take butabarbital?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take butabarbital in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Butabarbital may be habit-forming. Never share butabarbital with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it.

Measure liquid medicine with the dosing syringe provided, or with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

If you are taking butabarbital for surgery, the medicine is usually given 60 to 90 minutes before the start of surgery. Follow your doctor's instructions.

If you take butabarbital to treat insomnia, take the medicine only when you are getting ready to sleep at least during 7 or 8 hours. 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 butabarbital and talk with your doctor about another treatment for your sleep disorder.

Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve after 7 to 10 days of treatment. Also tell your doctor if you have any new or unusual thoughts or behaviors.

If you use this medication long-term, you may need frequent medical tests at your doctor's office.

Do not stop using butabarbital suddenly, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor how to safely stop using this medicine.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Keep track of the amount of medicine used from each new bottle. Butabarbital is a drug of abuse and you should be aware if anyone is using your medicine improperly or without a prescription.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

When treating insomnia, take butabarbital only when you are getting ready to sleep at least during 7 or 8 hours.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of butabarbital can be fatal.

Overdose symptoms may include slurred speech, feeling unsteady, trouble walking, vision problems, extreme drowsiness, pinpoint pupils, rapid heartbeats, weak pulse, fainting, and slow breathing (breathing may stop).

What should I avoid while taking butabarbital?

Do not drink alcohol. Dangerous side effects or death can occur when alcohol is combined with butabarbital.

Butabarbital may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.

Butabarbital side effects

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

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • slow heart rate, weak or shallow breathing;

  • extreme drowsiness, feeling light-headed, or fainting;

  • rapid breathing, gasping for breath;

  • confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts, nightmares; or

  • overactive reflexes, feeling restless or irritable, severe agitation or nervous feeling.

Side effects may be more likely in older adults.

Common side effects may include:

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Butabarbital dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Sedation:

Daytime sedation: 15 to 30 mg orally 3 to 4 times daily.

Preoperative sedation: 50 to 100 mg orally 60 to 90 minutes prior to surgery.

Usual Adult Dose for Insomnia:

50 to 100 mg orally once at bedtime

Usual Pediatric Dose for Sedation:

Preoperative sedation: 2 to 6 mg/kg orally, up to a maximum of 100 mg.

What other drugs will affect butabarbital?

Taking butabarbital with other drugs that make you sleepy or slow your breathing can cause dangerous or life-threatening side effects. Ask your doctor before taking a sleeping pill, narcotic pain medicine, prescription cough medicine, a muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety, depression, or seizures.

Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with butabarbital, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.

Further information

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.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.