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Recommended Dosage, Precautions, Side Effects, InteractionsDescription, Special conditions, Allergies, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, Other medical conditions, Use of certain medicines

Barbiturates are in the group of medicines known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Also known as sedative-hypnotic drugs, barbiturates make people very relaxed, calm, and sleepy. These drugs are sometimes used to help patients relax before surgery. Some may also be used to control seizures (convulsions). Although barbiturates have been used to treat nervousness and sleep problems, they have generally been replaced by other medicines for these purposes.

These medicines may become habit-forming and should not be used to relieve everyday anxiety and tension or to treat sleeplessness over long periods.

Barbiturates are available only with a physician's prescription and are sold in capsule, tablet, liquid, and injectable forms. Some commonly used barbiturates are phenobarbital (Barbita) and secobarbital (Seconal).

People with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain other medicines can have problems if they take barbiturates. Before taking these drugs, be sure to let the physician know about any of these conditions.

Anyone who has had unusual reactions to barbiturates in the past should let his or her physician know before taking the drugs again. The physician should also be told about any allergies to foods, dyes, preservatives, or other substances.

Taking barbiturates during pregnancy increases the chance of birth defects and may cause other problems such as prolonged labor and withdrawal effects in the baby after birth. Pregnant women who must take barbiturates for serious or life-threatening conditions should thoroughly discuss with their physicians the benefits and risks of taking this medicine.

Barbiturates pass into breast milk and may cause problems such as drowsiness, breathing problems, or slow heartbeat in nursing babies whose mothers take the medicine. Women who are breastfeeding should check with their physicians before using barbiturates.

Before using barbiturates, people with any of these medical problems should make sure their physicians are aware of their conditions:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity (in children)
  • Pain
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Underactive adrenal gland
  • Chronic lung diseases such as asthma or emphysema
  • Severe anemia
  • Porphyria

Taking barbiturates with certain other drugs may affect the way the drugs work or may increase the chance of side effects.

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