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What is Seconal Sodium (Secobarbital Sodium) ?
Secobarbital sodium (brand name Seconal, or Seconal Sodium) is a barbiturate derivative drug. It possesses anaesthetic, anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, sedative, and hypnotic properties. In the United Kingdom, it was known as quinalbarbitone. It is the most frequently used drug in physician-assisted suicide within the United States.
Secobarbital (and Secobarbital Sodium) is indicated for:
- Treatment of epilepsy
- Temporary treatment of insomnia
- Use as a preoperative medication to produce anaesthesia and anxiolysis in short surgical, diagnostic, or therapeutic procedures which are minimally painful.
Dosage and Administration
Dosages of barbiturates must be individualized with full knowledge of their particular characteristics. Factors of consideration are the patient’s age, weight, and condition.
Adults – As a hypnotic, 100 mg at bedtime. Preoperatively, 200 to 300 mg 1 to 2 hours before surgery.
Pediatric Patients – Preoperatively, 2 to 6 mg/kg, with a maximum dosage of 100 mg.
Special patient population – Dosage should be reduced in the elderly or debilitated because these patients may be more sensitive to barbiturates. Dosage should be reduced for patients with impaired renal function or hepatic disease.
Possible side effects of secobarbital include:
- Impaired motor functions
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired balance
- Agitation, irritability, or excitability
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Allergic reactions
- Difficulty breathing
Secobarbital (Secobarbital Sodium) may produce psychological addiction and produces physical dependence if used for an extended period of time. Withdrawal symptoms may occur if long-term use is abruptly ended and can include:
- Lack of appetite
- Possible death as a result of withdrawal
Secobarbital was widely used for recreational purposes in the 1960s and 1970s, and accidental overdose was associated with the drug. Prescription use of secobarbital decreased beginning in the early 1980s by which time benzodiazepines had become increasingly common. Secobarbital has acquired many nicknames, the most common being “reds,” “red devils,” or “red dillies” (because of the color of the capsules). Other common nicknames are “seccies,” “Cardinals,” “ruby slippers,” and, according to the Wegman’s School of Pharmacy curriculum, “red hearts.” A less common nickname is “dolls”;
Use in animal and human euthanasia:
In the Netherlands, individuals have two options for euthanasia. They can orally consume 100 ml of concentrated syrup containing either 15 grams of pentobarbital (or pentobarbital sodium) or 15 grams of secobarbital (or secobarbital sodium), or they can choose to have 2 grams of thiopental or 1 gram of propofol administered intravenously by a doctor, followed by a muscle relaxant. In recent years only 15% of those who died by euthanasia opted for orally consuming the lethal drug(s), the rest choosing to have the drugs administered intravenously by a doctor instead.
In the United States, secobarbital (secobarbital sodium) and pentobarbital (pentobarbital sodium) are the most common drugs prescribed under physician aid-in-dying laws in Oregon since 1998, Washington since 2008 and Vermont since 2013.
It is a component in the veterinary drug Somulose, used for euthanasia of horses and cattle.
The LD50 of secobarbital has been reported to be between 125 mg/kg(rat, oral) and 267 mg/kg(mouse, oral).