What is an Antispasmodic?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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An antispasmodic is a type of medication that is primarily used to treat convulsions or uncontrollable muscle movements, particularly in the intestines and stomach. The drug is also commonly referred to as phenobarbital, which belongs to the barbiturate drug group. Barbiturates often act as sedatives and can be addictive and have serious health consequences if not carefully monitored by a medical professional.

A doctor will generally prescribe an antispasmodic drug for the treatment of a digestive disorder. One of the most common digestive disorders that may require the drug is irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition in which the large intestine does not function properly, resulting in abdominal cramping, diarrhea, or constipation. As food moves through the digestive system, the muscles of the large intestine contract as a means to help push the food along more easily. People with irritable bowel syndrome have large intestines that contract too quickly, but antispasmodics may be able to slow down these movements and provide relief.


Another intestinal condition that may require an antispasmodic medication is Crohn’s disease. This is a condition in which parts of the gastrointestinal tract become irritated, making digestion extremely painful. After an extended period of time with the condition, the irritation may cause the body to form excessive tissue in the walls of the intestine, which can make digestion even more difficult due to the smaller amount of available space. Antispasmodics may be effective at relaxing the intestinal muscles so that food can move through it more easily.

The precise way in which an antispasmodic medication works is not conclusively known. It is generally believed that the drugs affect the nerve signals traveling from the brain to the walls of the intestines. Antispasmodics may prevent excessive nerve signals from the brain from contacting the intestines, which may reduce the amount of spasms or other movements in the intestines.

Although antispasmodics are generally safe, they can still have some possible side effects. If these medications are taken in larger amounts than recommended by a doctor, a person may become psychologically or physically addicted to them. Since the drugs have sedative qualities, combining them with other medications that cause drowsiness, such as medications for insomnia or congestion, may result in a slowed heartbeat that can be fatal. They can also cause dangerous allergic reactions in certain individuals. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to the drugs include difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and a swollen face.


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Post 3

If an antispasmodic does not work for IBS or whatever other stomach problem you have, it could be diet. This like lactose intolerance, IBS, and other intolerance issues or allergies often don't respond to antispasmodics, or not as well without fixing the diet too.

Post 2

@FernValley- It's too bad the antispasmodic drug didn't work for you. I have a friend with Crohn's who has had a lot of success taking an over the counter antispasmodic for her symptoms. No one thing can work for everyone, though.

Post 1

When I was first getting diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome a few years ago, a doctor put me on antispasmodic medication and I got horribly sick. I don't know how common that reaction is, but antispasmodics for IBS did not work for me- what did work was taking a probiotic supplement.

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