Reviewed on 9/19/2022

What Is Secobarbital and How Does It Work?

Secobarbital is a prescription medication used to treat insomnia or as a sedative before surgery.      

What Are Side Effects Associated with Using Secobarbital?

Common side effects of Secobarbital 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).

Serious side effects of Secobarbital include:

  • hives,
  • difficult breathing,
  • swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat,
  • unusual thoughts or behavior,
  • new or worsening depression,
  • confusion, hallucinations,
  • anxiety, agitation; or
  • thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself.

Rare side effects of Secobarbital include:

  • none

Seek medical care or call 911 at once if you have the following serious side effects:

  • Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, arm or leg weakness, trouble walking, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady, very stiff muscles, high fever, profuse sweating, or tremors;
  • Serious eye symptoms such as sudden vision loss, blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
  • Serious heart symptoms such as fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeats; fluttering in the chest; shortness of breath; sudden dizziness, lightheadedness, or passing out.

This is not a complete list of side effects and other serious side effects or health problems that may occur because of the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may report side effects or health problems to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


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What Are Dosages of Secobarbital?

  Adult and pediatric dosage

Capsule: Schedule II

  • 100 mg


Adult dosage

  • Short-term treatment:100 mg orally every night
  • Do not administer for more than 2 weeks
  • Pediatric dosage
  • 6 mg/kg orally divided every 8 hours

Pre-procedure Sedation

Adult dosage

  • 200-300 mg orally 1-2 hours before surgery

Pediatric dosage

  • 2-6 mg/kg orally 1-2 hours before surgery, no more than 100 mg dose

Dosage Considerations – Should be Given as Follows

  • See “Dosages”

What Other Drugs Interact with Secobarbital?

If your medical doctor is using this medicine to treat your pain, your doctor or pharmacist may already be aware of any possible drug interactions and may be monitoring you for them. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicine before checking with your doctor, health care provider, or pharmacist first

  • Secobarbital has severe interactions with the following drugs:
  • Secobarbital has serious interactions with at least 131 other drugs.
  • Secobarbital has moderate interactions with at least 364 other drugs.
  • Secobarbital has minor interactions with at least 115 other drugs.

This information does not contain all possible interactions or adverse effects. Visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker for any drug interactions. Therefore, before using this product, tell your doctor or pharmacist about all your products. Keep a list of all your medications with you and share this information with your doctor and pharmacist. Check with your health care professional or doctor for additional medical advice, or if you have health questions or concerns.

What Are Warnings and Precautions for Secobarbital?


  • Hypersensitivity to Secobarbital

Severe liver disease.

  • Severe breathing problems; or
  • Porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system)

Effects of drug abuse

  • None

Short-Term Effects

  • See “What Are Side Effects Associated with Using Secobarbital?”

Long-Term Effects

  • See “What Are Side Effects Associated with Using Secobarbital?”


  • You should not use Secobarbital if you have severe liver disease, severe breathing problems, or porphyria.
  • Some people using this medicine have engaged in activities such as driving, eating, walking, making phone calls, or having sex and later have no memory of the activity.
  • An overdose of Secobarbital can be fatal, especially when it is taken together with other medications that can cause drowsiness.
  • Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, light-headedness, fainting, coldness, and weak or shallow breathing.
  • Taking Secobarbital 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, muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety, depression, or seizures.
  • Causes CNS depression and impairs mental and physical abilities
  • Can cause hyperactivity and agitation
  • Secobarbital can make birth control pills less effective. Ask your doctor about using non-hormonal birth control (condom, diaphragm with spermicide) to prevent pregnancy.
  • 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.
  • Secobarbital may impair your thinking or reactions. You may still feel sleepy the morning after taking Secobarbital. Wait until you are fully awake before you drive, operate machinery, or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.

Pregnancy and Lactation

  • If you use secobarbital 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.


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


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