Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Is Phenobarbital Bad For You?

Also Known As: phenobarbitone



Short answer

If Phenobarbital is used for its intended purposes, then (apart from rare cases) it works well. As with all barbiturates, misuse can have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. Do not use except for as directed by a physician.



Long answer

Phenobarbital is a DEA schedule IV barbiturate that is used primarily as a sedative for patients undergoing surgery and also has further use as an anticonvulsant when applied in lower doses. Barbiturates all share barbituric acid, which does not have any CNS (central nervous system) activity on its own. CNS activity is supplied by substituting alkyl, alkenyl, or aryl groups on the pyrimidine ring. While Phenobarbital has been found to be safe to use in most cases, there are potentially harmful effects watch out for.

Phenobarbital should be avoided by those who: are pregnant, have a history of addiction, are hypersensitive to barbiturates, suffer from severe pain, and battle depression. In some rare cases, Phenobarbital has been found to impair the liver and in others to worsen the effects of respiratory disease. Additionally, people suffering from depression should not take Phenobarbital without approval from a doctor and close supervision, as the medicine may cause the depression to worsen and suicidal thoughts to take hold.

Possible side-effects of Phenobarbital include, but are not limited to restlessness, headache, and nausea. In more severe cases, the following symptoms may occur: dizziness, fainting, slow heartbeat, and shallow breathing. As with all medicines, Phenobarbital should be taken only as prescribed. If you experience any of the above side effects, it's imperative you consult your physician.

Possible short-term side effects

  • nausea
  • constipation
  • headache

Possible long-term side effects

  • liver malfunction
  • suicidal thoughts
  • depression

Possible withdrawal symptoms

  • anxiety
  • dizziness
  • insomnia


  • effectively prevents seizures
  • sedates before surgery
  • helps treat insomnia

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-29-2015
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-29-2015
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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