Kalamazoo Nerve Center, PLLC



Phenobarbital is an anti-epileptic medication (AED) used to reduce the number and severity of seizures in someone with epilepsy or other brain disorders. It is available by prescription only.

What are the clinical uses of Phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital is one of the most widely prescribed medications for the management of seizures. It is often prescribed to reduce the frequency and severity of generalized tonic-clonic, complex or simple partial seizures, and myclonic seizures in adults and children.

Phenobarbital may also be used to prevent seizures in someone who has had brain surgery, brain trauma, or has a neurological condition that might put him or her at risk for developing seizures, such as a brain tumor.

How does Phenobarbital work?

Phenobarbital is in a class of medications called barbiturates. Like alcohol and benzodiazepines, it is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Although the cause of epilepsy is unknown, some seizures are thought to occur because of excessive electrical activity in certain parts of the brain. Phenobarbital works to prevent seizures by reducing this abnormal electrical activity.

How is Phenobarbital taken?

Phenobarbital is available in pill, capsule, and liquid form. Dosage depends on the age and weight of the patient. It is important that you continue to take phenobarbital even if you feel well. Do not stop taking Phenobarbital without talking to your doctor, even if you experience side effects such as unusual changes in behavior or mood. If you have a seizure disorder and you suddenly stop taking phenobarbital, your seizures may become worse.

If you and your doctor choose to stop phenobarbital, you may be instructed to decrease your dose gradually. Follow these instructions carefully.

Take phenobarbital exactly as directed by your doctor. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

What are the possible side effects of phenobarbital?

Abrupt discontinuation of barbiturates, including phenobarbital, following chronic regular use has resulted in withdrawal symptoms similar in character to those noted with benzodiazepines and alcohol (convulsions, tremor, abdominal and muscle cramps, vomiting and sweating). The more severe withdrawal symptoms have usually been limited to those patients who had received excessive doses over an extended period of time. Talk to your doctor before discontinuing your treatment with phenobarbital.

Phenobarbital may cause birth defects. Women who are taking this medication and who would like to become pregnant should discuss treatment options with their physicians before the pregnancy begins. If you become pregnant while taking phenobarbital, talk to your doctor immediately.

Long-term use of phenobarbital may cause liver damage. People with pre-existing liver problems should talk to their doctors before using phenobarbital.

Phenobarbital may cause other side effects that may be serious and indicate that your body is not tolerating the drug properly. If you experience a change in seizures, severe rash, or allergic reaction contact your doctor immediately as these may indicate potentially life-threatening problems.

Read the medication guide that you receive with the medication for a complete list of possible side effects. You may also learn more about phenobarbital from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Speak with your doctor if you are concerned about possible side effects you may be experiencing.

Reference: The National Library of Medicine