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First Aid for Pentobarbital Overdose

Last updated Feb. 23, 2018

Pentobarbital belongs to a class of drugs known as barbiturates. It is used in the treatment of insomnia (sleeplessness). The drug is known to have a calming effect on the central nervous system (acting like a sedative). Pentobarbital Overdose is the accidental or intentional intake of the drug in dosage higher than prescribed values.


What is Pentobarbital Overdose?

  • Pentobarbital belongs to a class of drugs known as barbiturates. It is used in the treatment of insomnia (sleeplessness). The drug is known to have a calming effect on the central nervous system (acting like a sedative)
  • Pentobarbital Overdose is the accidental or intentional intake of the drug in dosage higher than prescribed values
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

What are the Causes of Pentobarbital Overdose?

  • Pentobarbital Overdose is caused by the intake of pentobarbital containing drug in dosage that is higher than prescribed
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • It is sold as Nembutal, Pentosol, Repocal, and Sopental among others

Note: The drug can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of the drug or other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects (such as an overdose).

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Pentobarbital Overdose?

The signs and symptoms of Pentobarbital Overdose can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. The drug acts on the nervous system of the body and the signs and symptoms may include:

  • Breathing difficulties, decrease in breathing rate
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Confusion and increased nervousness
  • Mumbling and slurred speech
  • Disorientation, delirium
  • Lack of coordination, unsteadiness
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes, appearance of large blisters
  • Coma

How is First Aid administered for Pentobarbital Overdose?

First Aid tips for Pentobarbital Overdose:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as dosage, type of drug taken, strength and time of ingestion of medication, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the medication strip/bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Medically manage symptoms; provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance of drug in the body
  • Administer laxatives for elimination of drug from the body
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Generally, hospitalization may be necessary, if the symptoms do not get better within the first 6 hours.

Who should administer First Aid for Pentobarbital Overdose?

First aid for Pentobarbital Overdose is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who overdosed, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Pentobarbital Overdose?

  • The prognosis of Pentobarbital Overdose is dependent on the amount of drug consumed, time between overdose and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • In many cases, with appropriate medication and support, the outcome is generally good and the individual may recover within 5 days
  • In case of severe symptoms including organ damage, shock, and coma, it may considerably worsen the outcome. Severe cases of Pentobarbital Overdose are even known to be fatal

In general, overdoses are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Pentobarbital Overdose be Prevented?

Pentobarbital Overdose can be prevented by:

  • Always taking the right dose of medication at recommended times
  • Avoiding drugs that might interact with pentobarbital
  • Talking to your healthcare provider, if recommended dose of pentobarbital does not provide adequate relief
  • Refrain from self-medication
  • Exercising caution while taking multiple drugs with pentobarbital
  • Keeping medications out of reach of children in child-proof containers
  • For older individuals and those who tend to be forgetful, medications should be stored in single dose containers with time labels, to avoid multiple dosage
  • Monitor intake of this drug especially in patients, who have depression or harbor suicidal thoughts and behavior

It is important to give your healthcare provider a complete list of prescription and non-prescription medications that are being currently taken. This will help them in assessing the possible drug interactions within various medications and help avoid/prevent accidental or unintentional toxic drug effects.

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, dosage and time of administration of medication
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 6, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 23, 2018