Sodium Oxybate


Sodium oxybate is used to prevent attacks of cataplexy (episodes of muscle weakness that begin suddenly and last for a short time) and excessive daytime sleepiness in adults and children 7 years of age and older who have narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that may cause extreme sleepiness, sudden uncontrollable urge to sleep during daily activities, and cataplexy). Sodium oxybate is in a class of medications called central nervous system depressants. The way that sodium oxybate works to treat narcolepsy is not known.

Side Effects Of Sodium Oxybate

Sodium oxybate may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • bedwetting
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling drunk
  • shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control
  • feelings of numbness, tingling, pricking, burning or creeping on the skin
  • difficulty moving when sleeping or upon waking
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • back pain
  • weakness
  • swelling of the arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • sweating

Some side effects can be serious. The following symptoms are uncommon, but if you experience any of them or those listed in the WARNING section, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:

  • sleepwalking
  • abnormal dreams
  • agitation
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • confusion or memory problems
  • changes in weight or appetite
  • feelings of guilt
  • thoughts of harming or killing yourself
  • feeling that others want to harm you
  • hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • loss of contact with reality
  • breathing problems, snoring, or sleep apnea
  • excessive drowsiness during the day

Sodium oxybate may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

Warnings & Precautions

Before taking sodium oxybate:

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to sodium oxybate, any other medications, or any of the ingredients in the sodium oxybate solution. Ask your pharmacist or check the medication guide for a list of the ingredients.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking. Be sure to mention the following: divalproex (Depakote). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
  • tell your doctor if you have or ever had succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase deficiency (an inherited condition in which certain substances build up in the body and cause retardation and developmental delays). Your doctor will probably tell you not to take sodium oxybate.
  • tell your doctor if you are following a low salt diet for medical reasons. Also, tell your doctor if you snore; if you have ever thought about harming or killing yourself or planned or tried to do so; and if you have or have ever had lung disease, difficulty breathing, sleep apnea (a sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop for short periods during sleep), seizures, depression, heart failure, high blood pressure, or liver or kidney disease.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking sodium oxybate, call your doctor.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking sodium oxybate.
  • you should know that you will be very sleepy for at least 6 hours after you take sodium oxybate, and you may also be drowsy during the daytime. Do not drive a car, operate machinery, fly an airplane, or perform any other dangerous activities for at least 6 hours after you take your medication. Avoid dangerous activities at all times until you know how sodium oxybate affects you.

Dosage Of Sodium Oxybate

Sodium oxybate comes as a solution (liquid) to mix with water and take by mouth. It is usually taken twice each night because sodium oxybate wears off after a short time, and the effects of one dose will not last for the entire night. The first dose is taken at bedtime, and the second dose is taken 2 1/2 to 4 hours after the first dose. Sodium oxybate must be taken on an empty stomach, so the first dose should be taken at least 2 hours after eating. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.

Do not take your bedtime doses of sodium oxybate until you or your child are in bed and are ready to go to sleep for the night. Sodium oxybate begins to work very quickly, within 5 to 15 minutes after taking it. Place your second dose of sodium oxybate in a safe place near your bed (or in a safe place to give to your child) before sleep. Use an alarm clock to be sure that you will wake up in time to take the second dose. If you or your child wake up before the alarm goes off and it has been at least 2 1/2 hours since you took your first dose, take your second dose, turn off the alarm, and go back to sleep.

Your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of sodium oxybate and gradually increase your dose, not more often than once every week.

Sodium oxybate may be habit forming. Do not take more of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor. If you take too much sodium oxybate, you may experience life-threatening symptoms including seizures, slowed or stopped breathing, loss of consciousness, and coma. You may also develop a craving for sodium oxybate, feel a need to take larger and larger doses, or want to continue taking sodium oxybate even though it causes unpleasant symptoms. If you have taken sodium oxybate in amounts larger than prescribed by your doctor, and you suddenly stop taking it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness, anxiety, abnormal thinking, loss of contact with reality, sleepiness, upset stomach, shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control, sweating, muscle cramps, and fast heartbeat.

Sodium oxybate may help to control your symptoms but will not cure your condition. Continue to take sodium oxybate even if you feel well. Do not stop taking sodium oxybate without talking to your doctor. Your doctor will probably want to decrease your dose gradually. If you suddenly stop taking sodium oxybate, you may have more attacks of cataplexy and you may experience anxiety and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

To prepare doses of sodium oxybate, follow these steps:

  1. Open the carton that your medicine came in and remove the bottle of medication and the measuring device.
  2. Remove the measuring device from its wrapper.
  3. Open the bottle by pushing down on the cap and turning the cap counterclockwise (to the left) at the same time.
  4. Place the open bottle upright on a table.
  5. Hold the bottle upright with one hand. Use your other hand to place the tip of the measuring device in the center opening on the top of the bottle. Press the tip firmly into the opening.
  6. Hold the bottle and measuring device with one hand. Use your other hand to pull back on the plunger until it is even with the marking that matches the dose your doctor prescribed. Be sure to keep the bottle upright to allow the medication to flow into the measuring device.
  7. Remove the measuring device from the top of the bottle. Place the tip of the measuring device in one of the dosing cups provided with the medication.
  8. Press down on the plunger to empty the medication into the dosing cup.
  9. Add 2 ounces (60 milliliters, 1/4 cup, or about 4 tablespoons) of tap water to the dosing cup. The medication will taste best if you mix it with cold water. Do not mix the medication with fruit juice, soft drinks, or any other liquid.
  10. Repeat steps 5 through 9 to prepare a dose of sodium oxybate in the second dosing cup.
  11. Place the caps on both dosing cups. Turn each cap clockwise (to the right) until it clicks and locks in place.
  12. Rinse the measuring device with water.
  13. Replace the cap on the bottle of sodium oxybate and return the bottle and measuring device to a safe place where they are stored away from children and pets. Place both prepared dosing cups of medication in a safe place near your bed or in a safe place to give your child that is out of the reach of children and pets.
  14. When it is time for you to take the first dose of sodium oxybate, press down on the cap and turn it counterclockwise (to the left). Drink all of the liquid while you are sitting on your bed. Put the cap back on the cup, turn it clockwise (to the right) to lock it in place, and lie down right away.
  15. When you wake up 2 1/2 to 4 hours later to take the second dose, repeat step 14.


Ask your doctor or call the central pharmacy if you have any questions about refilling your prescription.

It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.


All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and from the FDA.