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Systematic (IUPAC) name
CAS number 76-73-3
ATC code N05CA06
PubChem 5193
DrugBank APRD00497
Chemical data
Formula C12H18N2O3 
Mol. mass 238.283
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability  ?
Metabolism Hepatic
Half life  ?
Excretion Renal
Therapeutic considerations
Pregnancy cat.


Legal status

Schedule II(US)

Routes Oral

Secobarbital (marketed by Eli Lilly and Company under the brand names Seconal® and Tuinal) is a barbiturate derivative drug. It possesses anaesthetic, anticonvulsant, sedative and hypnotic properties. In the United Kingdom, it was known as Quinalbarbitone.



Secobarbital is indicated for:

  • Treatment of epilepsy
  • Temporary treatment of insomnia in patients resistant to mainstream hypnotics
  • Use as a preoperative medication to produce anaesthesia and anxiolysis in short surgical, diagnostic, or therapeutic procedures which are minimally painful.


  It is available as either a free acid or a sodium salt. The free acid is a white amorphous powder that is slightly soluble in water and very soluble in ethanol. The salt is a white hygroscopic powder that is soluble in water and ethanol.

Secobarbital sodium

The sodium salt of secobarbital is classified separately from the free acid, as follows:

  • CAS number: 309-43-3
  • Chemical formula: C12H18N2NaO3
  • Molecular weight: 260.265

Side effects

Side effects of secobarbital include:

  • Somnolence
  • Impaired motor functions
    • Impaired coordination
    • Impaired balance
    • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Agitation, irritability, or excitability
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Nightmares
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Allergic reactions
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Edema
    • Urticaria


Secobarbital is a fairly addictive drug, and withdrawal symptoms can occur if long-term usage is abruptly ended. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Death
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

Recreational Use

Secobarbital began to be widely abused in the 1960s and 1970s, although with the advent of benzodiazepines, they have become less commonly used.

Secobarbital has acquired many nicknames, the most common being "reds", or "red dillies" (it was originally packaged in red capsules). Another common nickname is "seccies". A less common nickname is "dolls"; this was partly responsible for the title of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls, whose main characters use secobarbital and other such drugs.

Another popular brand of barbiturate pill Tuinal contained a combination of secobarbital and amobarbital but is now rarely prescribed due to problems with abuse and overdose.

Cause of Death of Charles Boyer

Two days after his wife died from cancer in 1978, Charles Boyer committed suicide with an overdose of Seconal.

Cause of Death of Bartley Crum

Bartley Crum was the attorney for some of the so-called "Hollywood Ten" who were subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. The FBI tapped Crum's phones, opened his mail, and shadowed him constantly. Labeled as subversive, he ended up losing most of his clients and, unable to cope with stress from the harassment, committed suicide in 1959 by washing down an entire bottle of Seconal with whisky.

Cause of Death of Judy Garland

Judy Garland, of "The Wizard of Oz" fame, was found dead in her bathroom by her husband Mickey Deans on June 22, 1969. The stated exact cause of death by coroner Gavin Thursdon was accidental overdose of barbiturates; her blood contained the equivalent of 10 1.5-grain Seconal capsules.[1]

Role in Death of Jimi Hendrix

Secobarbital played a role in the September 18, 1970 death of legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who purportedly took nine Secobarbital tablets after a night of drinking wine and was later found dead in his London apartment. Hendrix' death was caused by asphyxiation, after Hendrix presumably vomited in his sleep as a result of the mixture of the excessive Secobarbital dose and alcohol.

Role in Death of Anissa Jones

Anissa Jones' fatal overdose was of a combination of cocaine, PCP, Methaqualone, and Seconal. The San Diego County coroner said it was one of the most severe cases of drug overdose ever seen in San Diego County.

Cause of Death of Carol Landis

On July 5, 1948, Carole Landis committed suicide by taking an overdose of Seconal in her Brentwood Heights, California home.

Cause of Death of Marilyn Monroe

In March 2007, an LA-based Australian writer and director named Philippe Mora uncovered previously-classified government documents regarding Marilyn Monroe's death. These documents, in turn, cited Seconal as Monroe's barbiturate of choice for her alleged suicide.

Cause of Death of Alejandra Pizarnik

Alejandra Pizarnik, an Argentine poetess, reportedly died, in 1972 at the age of 36, from a self-induced overdose of seconal.

Cause of Death of Lupe Velez

Lupe Velez, a Mexican actress who starred in many Hollywood films from 1927 to her death in 1944. On December 13, 1944 she committed suicide with an overdose of Seconal. She was 36 years old.

Use as a lethal injection

Secobarbital overdose was the most common method of implementing physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in Oregon until Eli Lilly and Company discontinued manufacturing it in May 2001, leading to a shortage of the drug. Since then, pentobarbital has dominated in Oregon PAS. Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited have experienced approval issues in their attempts to produce 100 mg secobarbital capsules, but there is no longer a shortage as of October 2006.

It is a component in the veterinary drug Somulose, used for euthanasia of horses and cattle.


  1. ^ Thomson, David,Film Studies: She couldn't act for toffee - until she burst into song; The Independent; 2004-06-27; Retrieved on 2007-01-26

There are also many myths surrounding this medicine, which is a very old medicine.

 If taken properly under the supervision of a doctor, this medication is relatively harmless compared to some of the new drugs made today.
  Tuinal is not seconal.  It contains seconal, and it is not made in the United States anymore.  Tuinal was 50% seconal and 50% amytal (truth serum), and is not available in the united states as a prescription drug.
 Seconal was abused many years ago, but only under certain circumstances could it be abused, number one, in combination with alcohol.
 Tuinal was abused the same way quaaludes were abused.  When combined with alcohol, it can be lethal, depending on the person.
 Also, the assisted suicide movement, made seconal very controversial.  A book was written with recipes to take one's life, one of them was to talk your doctor into prescribing it for a sleep disorder, then when a certain amount is obtained (or stored), to take them all at once.
 Also, newer medications that were patented claimed to be 'better' and 'more effective'.  The drug companies make money off of new patented drugs..
  Marilyn Monroe probably took seconal among many  drugs made at the time that were similar. but it is well known that her drug of choice was nembutal, and although that wass deemed to have caused her death, the autopsy found no traces of nembutal in her stomach, something that would occur if she  took an oversose of nembutal capsules.
 It  was widely believed she was murdered with the drug she enjoyed the most, nembutal, by an injection (fatal) from it.
 Seconal was a precription drug for decades with no regulations, but some misinformation, along with intentional and accidental deaths that showed seconal in the bloodstream, it was put on the controlled substances list passed by congress in 1971.
 This made doctors afraid to write it for patients, for fear of losing their licsense, even that was justified because unscrupulous doctors wrote it for money.
 The medication itself didn't cause danger, the misuse deliberatly made it dangerous.  People that are prescribed it for medicinal reasons and follow directions were unfairly labeled drug addicts.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Secobarbital". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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