Skip to Content

Seconal Sodium

Generic Name: secobarbital (SEE koe BAR bi tal)
Brand Name: Seconal Sodium

What is Seconal Sodium?

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

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

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

Important Information

You should not use Seconal Sodium if you have severe liver disease, severe breathing problems, or porphyria.

Some people using this medicine have engaged in activity such as driving, eating, walking, making phone calls, or having sex and later having no memory of the activity.

Before taking this medicine

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

  • severe liver disease;

  • severe breathing problems; or

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

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

  • asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), or other breathing disorder;

  • liver disease;

  • kidney disease;

  • a history of depression, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts;

  • a history of drug or alcohol addiction; or

  • if you also use a narcotic (opioid) medication.

If you use Seconal Sodium while you are pregnant, your baby could become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on habit-forming medicine may need medical treatment for several weeks. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Seconal Sodium can make birth control pills less effective. Ask your doctor about using a non-hormonal birth control (condom, diaphragm with spermicide) to prevent pregnancy.

Secobarbital can pass into breast milk and may cause side effects in the nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding.

Do not give this medicine to a child without medical advice.

How should I take Seconal Sodium?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Never take Seconal Sodium in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed.

Seconal Sodium may be habit-forming. Never share this medicine 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. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.

If you take this medicine to treat insomnia: Take Seconal Sodium only when you are getting ready for several hours of sleep. You may fall asleep very quickly after taking the medicine.

Take Seconal Sodium on an empty stomach. Do not take the medicine right after eating a meal.

Seconal Sodium is for short-term use only.

Call your doctor if your insomnia symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse after using this medication for 7 to 10 nights in a row. Do not take Seconal Sodium for longer than 2 weeks without your doctor's advice.

Do not stop using Seconal Sodium suddenly after long-term use, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor how to avoid withdrawal symptoms when you 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. Seconal Sodium 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?

Since Seconal Sodium is taken only at bedtime if needed, you are not likely to miss a dose. Take this medicine only when you are getting ready for several hours of sleep.

If you do not have time to get a full night's sleep after taking the medication, skip the missed dose and take the medicine at your next regularly scheduled sleep time. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of Seconal Sodium can be fatal, especially when it is taken together with other medications that can cause drowsiness.

Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, feeling light-headed, fainting, feeling cold, and weak or shallow breathing.

What should I avoid while taking Seconal Sodium?

Do not take this medicine if you have consumed alcohol during the day or just before bed.

Avoid taking cold or allergy medicine that contains an antihistamine.

Seconal Sodium may impair your thinking or reactions. You may still feel sleepy the morning after taking this medicine. Wait until you are fully awake before you drive, operate machinery, or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.

Seconal Sodium side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

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

Stop using Seconal Sodium and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • unusual thoughts or behavior;

  • new or worsening depression;

  • confusion, hallucinations;

  • anxiety, agitation; or

  • thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself.

The sedative effects of Seconal Sodium may be stronger in older adults.

Common side effects may include:

  • drowsiness, feeling tired;

  • "hangover" effect (drowsiness the day after a dose);

  • headache, dizziness;

  • memory problems;

  • dry mouth;

  • upset stomach; or

  • feeling restless or excited (especially in children).

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.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect Seconal Sodium?

Taking Seconal Sodium 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.

Other drugs may interact with secobarbital, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist can provide more information about Seconal Sodium.
  • 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.
  • Disclaimer: 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.

Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 7.01.

Date modified: March 06, 2018
Last reviewed: March 10, 2017