What Is Luminal (Phenobarbital)?

Luminal (Phenobarbital) is a generic prescription barbiturate drug, sold under the brand name Luminal. Luminal is an anticonvulsant and hypnotic drug that is primarily used to control seizures -reducing how often they occur, reducing the risk that a person will lose consciousness during a seizure, and lowering the potential for repeated, life-threatening seizures. Luminal controls abnormal electrical activity in the brain that causes seizures. Less frequently, Luminal may be prescribed as a short-term anxiety and insomnia medication. For most patients, a doctor will start them with a low dose of Luminal and go up from there as needed in order to reduce the potential for side effects.

Side effects of Luminal can include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. In some rare cases, a person on Luminal may experience psychiatric side effects. These can include depression or suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For people who are prescribed Luminal to control seizures, it’s important to take the medication at the same time every day. This allows for a steady dose to be present in the blood at all times.

As with other barbiturate drugs, Luminal slows down the central nervous system. It affects GABA receptors -which has an inhibitory effect on brain activity. That’s how Luminal is able to control seizures and anxiety; however, the same slowing effect can cause adverse effects. The risk of negative effects is higher for people who abuse Luminal or use it in any way other than as prescribed or directed by a medical professional.

What Does Luminal Look Like?

Luminal is available as a tablet. The generic version of Luminal, phenobarbital, is a small, white, round tablet. It’s scored and is imprinted with “5013” and “V.” The brand name form, Luminal, comes in two strengths -a 15 mg tablet and a 30 mg tablet. In some cases, Luminal is also prescribed in a liquid formula.

Is Luminal Addictive?

Before someone is prescribed Luminal, their doctor will likely speak to them about their history with drugs and alcohol. For example, a physician may ask the patient if they’ve ever consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, used illicit drugs or abused prescription drugs. The reason for these questions is that Luminal is addictive and it can result in dependence. If Luminal is used as prescribed and directed, the risk of addiction is quite low. However, when someone abuses the drug this risk goes up significantly. All barbiturates are considered to be addictive because they affect the brain and central nervous system. In doing so, they can create a feeling of euphoria or a sense of well-being. This can lead to addiction.

Abuse raises the chances of becoming addicted to Luminal. This behavior includes taking more of the drug than directed or using Luminal recreationally without a prescription. These scenarios can also increase the risks of becoming dependent upon Luminal. The risk of addiction and dependence associated with barbiturates has led to a reduction in the number of barbiturate prescriptions. For decades, these drugs were frequently prescribed. When the risk of addiction and toxicity started to surface, doctors started prescribing benzodiazepines instead. While some barbiturates are still used, such as Luminal, people who take these drugs should be aware of the risks.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.