Bentyl vs Donnatal

Listen to the article instead of reading through it.


For patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other types of gastrointestinal disorders, certain drugs that alter the activity of muscles in the stomach and intestines can aid in alleviating discomfort and managing symptoms. Bentyl and Donnatal are two such drugs prescribed for these conditions. They each impact different receptors within the gut but both have effects on reducing abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and irregular bowel movements often associated with IBS. Bentyl is an anticholinergic medication which means it works by blocking a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the nervous system to slow down gut movement while providing relief from spasms. On the other hand, Donnatal combines natural belladonna alkaloids along with phenobarbital primarily affecting levels of multiple neurotransmitters at once resulting in decreased motion within your gastrointestinal tract.

What is Bentyl?

Dicyclomine (the generic name for Bentyl) was one of the first antispasmodic drugs specifically designed to treat a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, marking a significant step forward from earlier medications. Dicyclomine was approved by the FDA in 1986. Bentyl works by relaxing the muscles in your stomach and intestines, effectively reducing spasms and associated pain that can occur with certain bowel disorders. It is primarily prescribed for relief of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Unlike Donnatal, which contains a combination of different active ingredients that affect both the central nervous system and smooth muscle tissue throughout the body, dicyclomine acts directly on smooth muscle tissue within the gut - this focused action results in fewer side effects compared to other antispasmodics like Donnatal.

What conditions is Bentyl approved to treat?

Bentyl is approved for the treatment of functional bowel/irritable bowel syndrome. It has been proven effective in:

  • Reducing symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as spasms in the stomach, intestines and bladder
  • Alleviating conditions where smooth muscle spasms cause gastrointestinal motility, like functional dyspepsia

Donnatal, on the other hand, is used for similar purposes but also includes:

  • Treatment of acute enterocolitis which may occur alongside inflammation or infection
  • As adjunct therapy for duodenal ulcer

How does Bentyl help with these illnesses?

Bentyl (Dicyclomine) is a medication primarily used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It works by blocking acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that sends signals in the nervous system. Acetylcholine plays many roles in the body, but one of its main functions includes regulating muscle contractions and relaxations in the gut. By inhibiting acetylcholine, Bentyl eases spasms and cramps associated with IBS.

Donnatal, on the other hand, combines two active ingredients: phenobarbital and belladonna alkaloids – hyoscyamine sulfate, atropine sulfate and scopolamine hydrobromide. These components work together to relax muscles in the stomach and intestines while slowing down their movements. This drug also reduces secretions from certain glands in the stomach lining which can help reduce symptoms of various digestive conditions including irritable bowel syndrome or peptic ulcers.

Despite having different mechanisms of action both medications are designed to alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort related to IBS though side effects differ therefore individual patient characteristics should be taken into account when choosing between these medications.

What is Donnatal?

Donnatal is a brand name for a combination of belladonna alkaloids and phenobarbital. The belladonna alkaloids work by reducing the spasms in the digestive system, while phenobarbital reduces anxiety and tension, acting as a mild sedative. This combination can be beneficial for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal issues related to stress. Donnatal was first approved by the FDA many decades ago, making it a well-established treatment option.

Unlike Bentyl which works primarily on muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the gut to reduce muscle spasms, Donnatal has an additional component that acts centrally to alleviate nervousness and tension often associated with IBS. Its dual action can provide more comprehensive relief for some patients compared to Bentyl alone.

However, because Donnatal contains phenobarbital - a barbiturate - its side effect profile differs from that of Bentyl; it may cause drowsiness or confusion especially in elderly people but less likely to cause dry mouth and blurred vision which are common side effects of Bentyl.

What conditions is Donnatal approved to treat?

Donnatal is approved for the treatment of:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Acute enterocolitis, a condition characterized by inflammation in the small intestine and colon

This medication can help to decrease symptoms such as stomach cramping and discomfort, which are commonly associated with these bowel conditions.

How does Donnatal help with these illnesses?

Donnatal is a combination medication that works by reducing the natural movements of the gut and relaxing the muscles in the stomach and intestines. It contains belladonna alkaloids and phenobarbital, which help to reduce abdominal cramping associated with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastrointestinal spasms. The action on muscle relaxant properties may also play roles in Donnatal's effectiveness as an antispasmodic drug. Since it has a calming effect on the nervous system, it is often prescribed when patients do not respond well to typical medications like Bentyl or are suffering from severe symptoms that include anxiety or stress along with IBS. This makes Donnatal a versatile option for those who require additional assistance managing their condition beyond what standard anticholinergic drugs can provide.

How effective are both Bentyl and Donnatal?

Both dicyclomine (Bentyl) and phenobarbital/hyoscyamine/atropine/scopolamine (Donnatal) have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders. While they both act to reduce muscle spasms in the digestive tract, they do so through slightly different mechanisms.

Dicyclomine directly blocks the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that causes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract to contract. This reduces painful spasms and cramping. On the other hand, Donnatal is a combination drug containing four active ingredients: phenobarbital, a barbiturate sedative; hyoscyamine, an anticholinergic like dicyclomine; atropine, another anticholinergic agent; and scopolamine, which further helps to reduce muscle spasm.

In terms of comparative effectiveness between Bentyl and Donnatal, there isn't much direct evidence available as most studies focus on individual drugs alone or compare them with placebo rather than each other. However, both medications are generally considered effective for their intended use.

It's worth noting that while these two medications share similar side effect profiles due to their shared class of medication (anticholinergics), Donnatal carries additional risks related to its inclusion of phenobarbital - notably potential dependence issues if used long-term.

When choosing between these two options for treating IBS or similarly related conditions it’s important patients discuss with their healthcare provider about their specific symptoms as well as any history they might have with medication sensitivities or substance abuse.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Bentyl typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Bentyl (dicyclomine) range from 80–160 mg/day, but studies have indicated that 80 mg/day is sufficient for treating irritable bowel syndrome in most people. Adolescents may be started on a lower dose of 40mg/day. In either population, the dosage can be increased after a week if there is no response. The maximum dosage that should not be exceeded under any circumstance is 160 mg per day.

At what dose is Donnatal typically prescribed?

Donnatal treatment typically begins with a dosage of one or two tablets, taken three to four times per day. The dose can then be adjusted according to the severity of the symptoms and patient response. For severe conditions, the dosage can be increased up to two tablets every four hours. This regimen may continue if there is no significant improvement after a reasonable period, but as always, any increase should only be made under medical supervision. It's essential not to exceed 12 tablets in a 24-hour period due to potential adverse effects related to overuse.

What are the most common side effects for Bentyl?

When comparing the side effects of Bentyl (Dicyclomine) to Donnatal, it's important to note that both medications can cause:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased sweating and difficulty dealing with heat
  • Difficulty urinating due to urinary retention
  • Confusion, drowsiness, nervousness or anxiety
  • Weakness

Moreover, some unique side effects for Bentyl may include a headache and bloating while Donnatal could lead to constipation. It is crucial that any of these symptoms are duly reported to your healthcare provider.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Bentyl?

Like all medications, Bentyl and Donnatal can sometimes cause adverse side effects, though these are generally rare. It's important to monitor for the following potential issues:

  • Signs of a serious allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Symptoms suggestive of heat stroke: fever with hot, dry skin
  • Vision changes such as seeing halos around lights and blurred vision
  • Unusual mood swings or mental changes (such as confusion, hallucinations)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Problems with coordination like feeling unsteady on your feet -Potential kidney problems indicated by decreased urination or dark colored urine -Severe abdominal pain accompanied by nausea or vomiting

If you notice any of these symptoms after taking either Bentyl or Donnatal stop taking the medication immediately and seek medical help. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and other more severe conditions may occur in extremely rare cases.

What are the most common side effects for Donnatal?

Donnatal, a medication used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders, can exhibit several side effects. These may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and constipation
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Difficulty urinating or an increase in urination frequency
  • Headache
    Furthermore, there are more serious side effects which require immediate medical attention such as confusion, agitation or even rash. In rare cases it might cause muscle weakness or unusual weight loss. It's essential to note that while these side effects can be uncomfortable they're not typically experienced by all users. Always consult your healthcare provider about potential risks before starting any new medication regimen.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Donnatal?

While Donnatal is generally considered safe for most people, some individuals may experience serious adverse reactions. These could include:

  • Severe allergic reaction symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Mood changes and mental/mood alterations including confusion and agitation
  • Unusual restlessness or excitement (especially in children)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Eye problems like blurred vision or eye pain due to increased pressure
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Decreased sweating leading to overheating in hot weather

If you notice these side effects when using Donnatal, seek medical attention immediately. Remember that your healthcare provider has prescribed this medication because they've judged that the benefits outweigh the risk of side effects. However, it's crucial to report any unusual experiences promptly.

Contraindications for Bentyl and Donnatal?

Both Bentyl and Donnatal, like many other medications used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may intensify symptoms in some individuals. If you notice your IBS symptoms worsening or new onset of severe abdominal pain, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Bentyl nor Donnatal should be taken if you are currently using, or have recently stopped using monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). The combination of these drugs can lead to serious side effects such as high fever, rapid pulse rate, and high blood pressure. Always inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you are taking; MAOIs will require a period of about 2 weeks to clear from the system to prevent dangerous interactions with Bentyl and Donnatal.

How much do Bentyl and Donnatal cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 tablets of Bentyl (20 mg) averages around $600, which works out to about $10–20/day depending on your dosage.
  • The price for 100 tablets of Donnatal is approximately $380, working out to about $4/day.

Thus, if you are taking a higher dosage range for Bentyl (i.e., up to maximum daily dose), then brand-name Donnatal may be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For the generic versions - dicyclomine and phenobarbital with hyoscyamine sulfate, atropine sulfate & scopolamine hydrobromide respectively - costs can vary but are significantly lower:

  • Dicyclomine (10 mg tablets) is available in packs starting from 30 capsules and above, with approximate daily costs ranging from about $0.50 –$1.00 depending on your dose.
  • Generic Donnatal equivalents are available in larger tablet counts as well; pricing varies widely but can start from just over a dollar per day up to several dollars per day based on dosing requirements and pharmacy used.

Remember that while cost considerations matter, they're secondary compared to finding the medication that provides you optimal symptom relief with minimal side effects under your healthcare provider's guidance.

Popularity of Bentyl and Donnatal

Dicyclomine, available under the brand name Bentyl, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 2.8 million people in the US in 2020. Dicyclomine accounted for just over 14% of antispasmodic prescriptions in the US. However, it appears to be one of the most common choices within this category due to its efficacy and availability. The use of dicyclomine has shown a slight increase since 2013.

Phenobarbital/ Hyoscyamine/ Atropine/ Scopolamine combination, available as Donnatal and other brands, was prescribed to approximately 1 million people in the USA in 2020. In terms of overall antispasmodic prescriptions within the country during that year, Donnatal accounted for roughly around 5%. Although less common than dicyclomine due to being a controlled substance (phenobarbital is a barbiturate), it's still utilized notably for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms when other treatments haven't worked or aren't suitable. The prevalence of Donnatal usage has remained fairly steady over recent years.


Bentyl (dicyclomine) and Donnatal (a combination of phenobarbital, hyoscyamine, atropine sulfate and scopolamine hydrobromide) are both used to treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They have been in use for many years, with a wealth of clinical studies indicating their effectiveness when compared with placebo treatments. Both drugs work by reducing the muscle contractions in the gastrointestinal tract; however, they employ different mechanisms of action. Bentyl acts as an antispasmodic primarily affecting muscarinic receptors while Donnatal has a broader effect on the nervous system due to its multiple ingredients.

The choice between these two medications often depends on individual patient conditions. Bentyl is typically considered as first-line treatment due to fewer side effects and lower risk profile compared with Donnatal which contains phenobarbital, a barbiturate that can be habit-forming.

Both medications are available in generic form which represents significant cost savings especially for patients who must pay out-of-pocket. Adjustments may need to be made during the initial stages of treatment until therapeutic responses become noticeable.

In terms of side effects, both drugs share similar profiles including dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness among others but Bentyl generally presents less severe side effects than does Donnatal. It is crucial that patients closely monitor any changes or new symptoms following initiation or modification of therapy and promptly seek medical help if unusual discomforts arise.