Phenobarbital is an anti-convulsion barbiturate primarily used to control seizures. It is also used to treat insomnia, anxiety and to minimize benzodiazepines as well as barbiturate withdrawal symptoms. Phenobarbital has a long acting plasma half-life which means that the drug can remain in the body for as long as seven days. After eight to twelve hours, the body can reach peak concentration or bioavailability of up to 90% of phenobarbital after oral administration. This high saturation and long half-life can mean for some patients being treated for seizures, that once their condition is stabilized, they may need to take the drug on a daily basis.

As a barbituric acid derivative, Phenobarbital occurs as a white, odorless, crystalline powder. It is also produced as a white capsule in 32 mg and 100 mg formulations. It is also manufactured as a white round tablet in dosages of 15 mg, 16.2 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg and 100 mg. Imprint varies based on strengths and manufacturer.

Drug Classifications

Phenobarbital is a central nervous system depressant that has been classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Drugs in this category have a low potential for abuse as well as a low risk for dependence. This drug can be obtained by prescription only and generic formulations are also available.

Effects of Phenobarbital

The use of Phenobarbital may cause mild to severe side effects. An overdose can lead to serious depression of the central and peripheral nervous systems leading to a gradual slowing or shutdown of the body’s primary functions such as respiratory and cardiac activity. Overdose can also cause hypothermia, hypotension, unconsciousness, coma or death. Get emergency medical attention immediately, if after taking Phenobarbital you have difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat. Other side effects may include:

  • Feeling lightheaded or Dizzy
  • Relaxed, uninhibited and or drowsy
  • Mild euphoria
  • Involuntary muscle movements of the face, eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to focus;
  • Moods swings
  • Feelings of excitement, irritability and aggression
  • loss of balance and coordination
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heart beat
  • Flu like symptoms such as sore throat, muscle aches and fever
  • Bruising, bleeding and mouth sores
  • Diminished effectiveness of birth control medications
  • Headaches and feelings of being hung over.

History of Phenobarbital

Phenobarbital was first made available by the Bayer drug company under the brand name Luminal in 1912. At that time, it was used for its sedative and hypnotic properties. Its anti-seizure effectiveness was discovered accidentally by Alfred Hauptmann, a young doctor while using Phenobarbital as a tranquilizer for epilepsy patients. When he observed that his patient’s seizures were also responding positively to the drug, he began a careful and in-depth study of his patients and their reactions to the drug. Over time, use of the Phenobarbital proved to be very effective in minimizing seizures and improving the patient’s physical and mental well-being. In cases where the patient remained on the drug regimen continuously, they were able to return to their normal lives and work routines. However, when use of Phenobarbital was halted, the seizures returned and in some cases occurred more frequently.

In 1939, under the directive of Adolph Hitler, in what was known as the Nazi Children Euthanasia Program fifteen psychiatrists euthanized over fifty children with Phenobarbital (Luminal) injections who were believed to be intellectually challenged or disabled.

Phenobarbital Abuse

Prolonged use of high doses of Phenobarbital may lead tolerance build up which can result in both physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Abuse of this drug mimic that of alcohol intoxication and can lead to a fatal dosage. An individual indulging in chronic abuse of phenobarbital may always seem drunk. Slurred speech, poor coordination and sustained involuntary eye movement are also common signs of Phenobarbital abuse.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When phenobarbital is withheld after a period of continuous use, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and in some cases can lead to death. Symptoms typically begin to occur approximately eight to twelve hours after the last dose of phenobarbital. These may include anxiety, muscle spasms, tremors, progressively feeling weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Progression of symptoms can peak at 16 hours with convulsions and delirium lasting for up to five days. Symptoms may begin to gradually diminish over the next fifteen days.


Clinical studies show that the elimination or detoxification process for Phenobarbital addiction is most effective which it occurs gradually. In most instances, administration of the drug is continued under direct supervision of a board certified physician so that the dosage and treatment regimen can be modified based on the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the patient’s overall physical and mental stability.

At drug rehab treatment centers, all our addiction specialist have specialized training in proper detoxification processes and can help to facilitate a safe and comfortable withdrawal from habitual use of this drug. Our services also include a complete physical and psychological evaluation that help to determine the best rehabilitation program for each patient. Since drugs impact everyone differently, our treatment programs are customized and continuously reassessed to ensure that the patient is progressing at their own pace. We also use a comprehensive and integrative approach. Our ultimate goal is for full recovery and long term sobriety.

If you or a loved one has become addicted to Phenobarbital, contact our drug rehab treatment centers today at 877-855-3470. We have the tools, expertise and experience to help you overcome Phenobarbital addiction.

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