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What is Fioricet? Uses & Side Effects

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Key Takeaways

  • Fioricet includes butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine
  • Fioricet is a controlled substance and should be taken exactly as prescribed
  • As a depressant, Fioricet can have side effects like feeling sluggish or drowsiness as the body adjusts to the medication. In rare cases, side effects can be more severe.
  • Fioricet can interact with other drugs and health conditions and you should speak to a doctor if you are taking other medications, have any other health conditions or are pregnant
  • Fioricet has some addictive qualities
  • Misusing Fioricet can be dangerous or deadly

Fioricet is a combination medication used to treat migraines or severe headaches. Learn the uses, effects and how to use Fioricet safely.

Fioricet is a combination medication that is used to treat complex tension headaches when other medications have not been effective.

The combination of drugs sold under the brand name Fioricet can help to manage the severe pain and disability that comes with tension headaches.

While Fioricet can be an effective and life-changing medication for people suffering from tension headaches, there is also the risk of Fioricet abuse or addiction. It’s important to consider the possible side effects and risks of using Fioricet to determine if this drug is right for you.

What is Fioricet?

People who suffer from tension headaches may receive a prescription of Fioricet. Fioricet includes three different drug ingredients that can help manage different symptoms of tension headaches. These include:

  • Butalbital: A type of barbiturate that can help muscle relaxation.
  • Acetaminophen: Also called paracetamol (sold as Tylenol) and helps to relieve pain.
  • Caffeine: Enhances the effects of acetaminophen.

The ingredients of Fioricet help to address pain specifically or can help to enhance the effects of the painkillers. Some types of Fioricet include codeine, which is an opiate used to treat pain. This can increase the effect of Fioricet, but also increase some of the risks for misuse or addiction.

Is Fioricet a Controlled Substance?

Fioricet is a controlled substance, which means that it requires a prescription and cannot be purchased over the counter. Fioricet can only be prescribed a certain number of times following a Fioricet prescription schedule. This is to avoid abuse or dependence and to reduce the risk of addiction.

What Does Fioricet Look Like?

Fioricet comes in a pill or tablet form and is taken orally. It can also come as a liquid solution, but this is less common. The dose of the medication will be indicated on the tablet packaging or bottle.

Alternative Names for Fioricet

The combination of butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine has been formulated by different pharmaceutical brands and can be known by different names in different places.

The combination of butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine has been formulated by different pharmaceutical brands and can be known by different names in different places.

  • Brand Names: The combination of butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine is sold under other brand names, as well as Fioricet. These include Americet, Ezol and Alagesic among others.
  • Generic Names: Fioricet may be referred to as the generic names of the drugs combination (butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine)
  • Street Names: There are few known street names for Fioricet that does not contain codeine, as it is lower risk for abuse and addiction. Barbiturates, a drug component of Fioricet, may be referred to simply as Barbs.

Fioricet with Codeine

Fioricet with Codeine may be used in cases where stronger pain management of tension headaches is required. Fioricet with Codeine can be beneficial for people struggling to manage their pain, but comes with a higher risk of abuse and the potential for dangerous side effects. Fioricet with Codeine is also a controlled substance, and is prescribed carefully to avoid dependence or misuse.

Fiorinal vs. Fioricet

Fiorinal and Fioricet are similar medications. However, the pain-killing medication included differs between the two. While Fioricet contains acetaminophen, Fiorinal contains aspirin. Both of these drugs are useful for managing pain and fever, but some people may respond better to one than the other.

What is Fioricet Used For?

Fioricet is prescribed primarily for tension headaches, but can also be used for migraines or managing fever and pain in combination. Generally, Fioricet is used when over-the-counter medications have failed to adequately manage headache pain.

Dosage and Administration

Fioricet dosage for tension headaches or migraines depends on drug tolerance and how well you respond to the medication, In general, one Fioricet tablet should be taken every four hours and the dosage should not exceed six tablets in 24 hours. A doctor will be able to provide individual dosing information.

The dosage for Fioricet with Codeine is the same, however, patients should take the lowest possible dose to manage their pain in order to reduce the risk of dependence.

Fioricet Side Effects

Fioricet can be extremely helpful for people suffering from severe headaches but does come with some side effects. These side effects can range from mildly uncomfortable to severe. Any symptoms should be reported and discussed with your doctor. Some of the common side effects can include:

  • Sedation or sluggishness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry skin
  • Diarrhea

Long-term side effects of Fioricet are less common but can include liver or kidney damage. These are unlikely side effects but should be discussed with a doctor if taking this medication.

Fioricet and Pregnancy

Using Fioricet during pregnancy is recommended only if the benefits to the mother greatly outweigh the risks to the fetus. All three components of Fioricet can pass through the uterus, and the drug may cause abnormalities. The lowest risk strategy is to avoid taking this medication when pregnant.

Drug components of Fioricet can also be passed to the infant while breastfeeding and can accumulate in their body. The effects can be dangerous, and Fioricet should also be avoided while breastfeeding if possible.

Fioricet Drug Interactions

In some cases, Fioricet can interact with other drugs and create an adverse reaction or serious side effects. Fioricet should not be combined with any other drugs that contain butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine to avoid accidental overdose.

Fioricet with Codeine should not be taken in combination with serotonergic drugs, like some types of antidepressants or anxiety medications.

Fioricet 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 to avoid risks of drug interactions.

Related Topic: Acetaminophen and Alcohol

Who Uses Fioricet?

People who use Fioricet are primarily people who suffer from tension headaches or migraines. However, a small portion of people using Fioricet may be using them recreationally or to get high.

Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with chronic migraines and therefore are more likely to receive a prescription of Fioricet. People who receive treatment for migraine are often slightly older and report more severe symptoms.

Fioricet Statistics

Approximately 6% of people who suffer from migraines use a barbiturate combination medication. Although it is often not the first treatment option, millions of people are prescribed Fioricet or a similar drug to manage their headache or migraine symptoms.

Can You Get High From Fioricet?

When taken in high doses, Fioricet can make you feel very relaxed or high. These effects are largely produced from the butalbital in Fioricet and enhanced by the other components. Barbiturates are a central nervous system depressant, so taking more Fioricet than prescribed can produce a Fioricet high that feels similar to alcohol intoxication or extreme relaxation.

Fioricet Addiction

As with many medications, when taken over a long period of time or in high doses, the body can come to depend on the drug to function normally. Misusing Fioricet can result in dependence and addiction and can pose serious risks to health. Signs of a Fioricet addiction can include drug-seeking behavior, doctor-shopping or pretending to lose Fioricet prescriptions to get access to more.

Fioricet has addictive qualities, and it’s important to watch for signs of addiction when using this medication. If you are misusing or addicted to Fioricet, getting off the drug is the first step of recovery. There are different types of treatments available that can address Fioricet addiction. Treatment can also include therapy and skill building, which can address the underlying reasons for abusing Fioricet.

View Sources

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Food and Drug Administration. “Butalbital, Acetaminophen, Caffeine, and Codeine Phosphate Capsules for oral use, CIII.” August 2017. Accessed August 23, 2019.

Evans. Randolph W.; Baskin, Steven M. “Why Do Migraineurs Abuse Butalbital-Containing Combination Analgesics?” American Headache Society, 2010. Accessed August 23, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Fioricet.” May 15, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2019.

Medscape. “Butalbital/acetaminophen/caffeine (Rx).” Accessed August 23, 2019.

Prescribers Digital Reference. “Acetaminophen/butalbital/caffeine – Drug Summary.” Accessed August 24, 2019. “Fioricet side effects.” December 11, 2018. Accessed August 24, 2019.

ClinCalc. “Acetaminophen; Butalbital: Drug Usage Statistics, United States, 2006 – 2016.” 2019. Accessed August 24, 2019.

Dodick, David W. “Assessing Barriers to Chronic Migraine Consultation, Diagnosis, and Treatment: Results From the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) Study.” Headache, May 2016. Accessed August 24, 2019.