Fioricet is a popular medication approved to treat symptoms of tension headaches. Migraines affect close to one billion people worldwide. More than a strong headache, people with migraines know well that the symptoms can linger for days and disrupt their daily life.
While there are many treatment options for treating migraines, approximately 6% of patients use Fioricet to control the symptoms. In 2018, an estimated 3.2 million prescriptions were issued. That’s a significant increase (32% increase) than the number of prescriptions in 2014.
If you suffer from migraines or someone you know takes Fioricet, keep reading to learn about side effects and risk factors for addiction.
Table of Contents
What is Fioricet?
Fioricet is the brand for a combination medication with FDA approval to treat some types of tension headaches. It helps relax muscle contractions involved with tension headaches and has been used extensively off-lave; for migraines. Fioricet contains a blend of:
- Butalbital (50mg): A type of barbiturate that helps with muscle relaxation
- Acetaminophen (300mg): An over-the-counter analgesic that helps to relieve pain
- Caffeine (40mg): Added to enhance the effects of acetaminophen
Some types of Fioricet also contain codeine, which is a potent narcotic and opioid used to treat pain.
Is Fioricet a Controlled Substance?
Because Fioricet is a compound medication with butalbital, it’s considered a Schedule II substance by the Health and Safety Code. Schedule III drugs have moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.
However, some forms of Fioricet contain codeine. The codeine acts as an analgesic and a cold medication. While the amount of codeine is low (30mg), codeine is a highly addictive drug that can cause overdose, especially when combined with other substances like alcohol.
This medication can cause severe side effects. While taking Fioricet, you should avoid drinking alcohol, as mixing alcohol and acetaminophen can increase your risk of liver disease. People with asthma, kidney disease, and a history of mental illness or suicidal thoughts should also avoid using this medication.
It may also have a negative interaction with other medications that have a sedating effect. Combining sedatives can slow breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels. It’s important to disclose all medications to your doctor or pharmacist to avoid risks of drug interactions.
In rare cases, acetaminophen can cause a severe skin allergic reaction that can turn lethal. Fioricet can also pass into breast milk, so pregnant women should seek medical advice about any side effects. Common side effects include:
- Loss of appetite
- Drink feeling
- Shortness of breath
- A light-headed feeling
- Upper stomach pain
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
Is Fioricet Addictive?
Although Fioricet is a valid prescription medication, it has the potential to cause addiction. When someone follows their prescription guidelines and directions, the risk of addiction is shallow.
However, if someone exceeds their dosage, they may develop tolerance to its effects. Particularly, the active ingredient butalbital may be habit-forming. An American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention study found the use of butalbital 5 days per month would increase the risk of acute migraine becoming a chronic migraine.
Fioricet can make you feel very relaxed or high when taken in high doses, as with other prescription drugs. Again, these effects are largely produced from the butalbital and codeine in Fioricet.
Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants, so taking more than prescribed can produce a high that feels similar to alcohol intoxication.
Most symptoms of Fioricet withdrawal last anywhere between 8 hours to three days. However, factors like ingesting alcohol, metabolism, and using other substances may extend the withdrawal timeline. Rebound headaches are the most common sign of withdrawal. Other symptoms include:
- Muscle spasms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings
Interestingly enough, while butalbital is the habit-forming ingredient in Fioricet, acetaminophen is the most likely to cause an overdose. An overdose is a medical emergency that can be fatal without medical assistance. Signs of overdose include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
Fioricet and Codeine
In addition, some formulas of Fioricet contain codeine, a potent opioid. Codeine enhances the medication’s pain-relieving effects, but it also increases the risk of overdose and addiction.
If you or someone you know needs a Fioricet prescription, ensure to ask for the opioid-free version of the drug. Misuse of Fioricet with codeine, either accidentally or intentionally, may lead to lethal respiratory depression. Shallow breathing, a slow heart rate, and intense confusion are other overdose symptoms from Fioricet with codeine.
Fioricet with codeine should not be taken in combination with serotonergic drugs, like some types of antidepressants or anxiety medications.
Signs of Fioricet Addiction
Fioricet abuse signs are very similar to other prescription drugs. People who abuse prescription drugs tend to experience physical and behavioral changes that include:
- Taking more medication than prescribed
- Experiencing cravings and burgers for the drug
- Taking more of the medication to get the same effects
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, and recovering from the drug
- Seeking out multiple doctors to get a new prescription
- Using multiple pharmacies to feel their prescription
Physical signs of addiction are very similar to alcohol abuse. Medications like sleeping pills and pain medicines have similar effects:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of motor skills
The behavioral signs of substance abuse resemble drunkenness and usually include:
- Lack of inhibition
- Impaired judgment
- Suicidal thoughts
Addiction Treatment Options
There are several options to treat prescription drug addiction. Since Fioricet causes withdrawal symptoms, most people will start their journey with a medical detox followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment.
- Medical Detox: Involves assisting the patient in removing all of the Fioricet and other substances from the body under a controlled environment to manage withdrawal symptoms.
- Inpatient Treatment: Allows patients to stay at a facility for an extended period of time to focus solely on their recovery.
- Outpatient Treatment: Provide more flexibility for patients who want to seek treatment but prefer to stay at home. Patients still attend individual and group therapy throughout the week.
- Partial Hospitalization Program: A treatment option for Fioricet addiction lets patients attend treatment throughout the day but return home at night.
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Ideal for patients with addiction and mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment helps treat both conditions simultaneously.
While Fioricet can be an effective treatment for tension headaches, it has its fair share of side effects and risks. Ask your doctor for medical advice on other treatment options that don’t cause withdrawal symptoms or the possibility of developing an addiction.
Call your doctor about other medications, Botox, over-the-counter pain relievers, and other lifestyle support measures such as biofeedback, yoga, and acupressure that might help manage symptoms more safely.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our admission specialists can walk you through a drug screening assessment to better understand your state. If you or someone you know has been abusing prescription drugs, reach out to an addiction specialist today and stop your vicious cycle.
Addiction can cost you your life, but recovery is widely available. Call 866-308-2090 today and start your recovery journey.