Butabarbital (patient information)

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Drug information courtesy of the

Please visit the NLM website for the most current information.

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Why this medication is prescribed

Butabarbital, a barbiturate, is used in the short-term treatment of insomnia to help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. It is also used as a sedative to relieve anxiety, including anxiety before surgery.

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

How this medication should be used

Butabarbital comes as a tablet and elixir (liquid) to take by mouth. It usually is taken one to four times a day with or without food. If you take butabarbital once a day, take it at bedtime. Do not mix butabarbital oral liquid with other liquids, especially fruit juice. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take butabarbital exactly as directed.

Butabarbital can be habit-forming. Do not use butabarbital for more than 2 weeks. Do not take a larger dose, take it more often, or for a longer time than your doctor tells you to. Tolerance may develop with long-term or excessive use, making the drug less effective. Do not stop taking this drug without talking to your doctor, especially if you have been taking it for a long time. Stopping the drug suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms (anxiousness, sleeplessness, and irritability). Your doctor probably will decrease your dose gradually.

If your sleep problems continue, talk to your doctor, who will determine whether this drug is right for you.

Special precautions

Before taking butabarbital:

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to butabarbital, tartrazine (a yellow dye in some butabarbital tablets), aspirin, or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially acetaminophen (Tylenol); anticoagulants ('blood thinners') such as warfarin (Coumadin); antihistamines; carbamazepine (Tegretol); clonazepam (Klonopin); disulfiram (Antabuse); felodipine (Plendil); fenoprofen (Nalfon); MAO inhibitors [phenelzine (Nardil) or tranylcypromine (Parnate)]; medications for depression, seizures, pain, Parkinson's disease, asthma, colds, or allergies; metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL); metronidazole (Flagyl); muscle relaxants; phenylbutazone (Azolid, Butazolidin); propranolol (Inderal); rifampin (Rifadin); sedatives; sleeping pills; steroids; theophylline (Theo-Dur); tranquilizers; valproic acid (Depakene); verapamil (Calan); and vitamins. These medications may add to the drowsiness caused by butabarbital.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had anemia; asthma; seizures; or lung, heart, or liver disease.
  • you should know that butabarbital can decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Use a different method of birth control while taking this medication.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking butabarbital, call your doctor immediately.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking butabarbital.
  • you should know that this drug may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this drug affects you.
  • remember that alcohol can add to the drowsiness caused by this drug.

What to do if you forget a dose

Do not take the missed dose when you remember it. Skip it completely; then take the next dose at the regularly scheduled time. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

Side Effects

Minor Side Effects

Side effects from butabarbital are common and include:

  • drowsiness
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • depression
  • excitement (especially in children)
  • upset stomach

Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • nightmares
  • increased dreaming
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • joint or muscle pain

Severe Side Effects

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • mouth sores
  • sore throat
  • easy bruising
  • bloody nose
  • unusual bleeding
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • severe skin rash

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/MedWatch/report.htm] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

Storage conditions needed for this medication

Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

In case of emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

Other information

Keep all appointments with your doctor.

Do not let anyone else take your medication.

Brand names

  • Butisol Sodium®