Secobarbital sodium (marketed by Eli Lilly and Company for the treatment of insomnia, and subsequently by other companies as described below, under the brand name Seconal) is a short-acting barbiturate derivative drug that was patented in 1934 in the United States. It possesses anesthetic, anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, sedative, and hypnotic properties. In the United Kingdom, it was known as quinalbarbitone. It is the most frequently used drug in physician-assisted suicide within the United States. Secobarbital is considered to be an obsolete sedative-hypnotic (sleeping pill), and as a result, it has largely been replaced by the benzodiazepine family. Seconal was widely abused, known on the streets as “red devils” or “reds”.
Seconal is the brand name for a drug known as secobarbital sodium, a barbiturate derivative that is sometimes prescribed for insomnia. In addition to its use as a sleep remedy, Seconal may also be prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy, or as an anti-anxiety medication for people scheduled to undergo surgery.
Dosage and Administration
Dosages of barbiturates must be individualized with full knowledge of their particular characteristics. Factors of consideration are the patient’s age, weight, and condition.
- Adults – As a hypnotic, 100 mg at bedtime. Preoperatively, 200 to 300 mg 1 to 2 hours before surgery.
- Pediatric Patients – Preoperatively, 2 to 6 mg/kg, with a maximum dosage of 100 mg.
- Special patient population – Dosage should be reduced in the elderly or debilitated because these patients may be more sensitive to barbiturates. Dosage should be reduced for patients with impaired renal function or hepatic disease.
Sleepiness, trouble waking up, dizziness, excitation, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly.
Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
Tell your doctor right away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: mental/mood changes (such as agitation, confusion, depression, hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, nightmares), slurred speech, staggering walk/clumsiness, double vision, memory problems.
Rarely, after taking this drug, people have gotten out of bed and driven vehicles while not fully awake (“sleep-driving”). People have also sleepwalked, or have prepared/eaten food, made phone calls, or had sex while not fully awake. Often these people do not remember these events. If you discover that you have done any of these things, tell your doctor right away. Drinking alcohol, taking other medications that cause drowsiness, or taking higher doses of secobarbital may increase your risk for this effect. Do not drink alcohol while using this medication.
Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including slow/shallow breathing, fainting, slow heartbeat.
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.
This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.