Fioricet is a combination drug that is used to treat headaches and migraines. It contains butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine. Fioricet with Codeine is a stronger pain reliever that some people use when they do not get relief from plain Fioricet. Both types of Fioricet can be addictive. Fioricet addiction occurs when someone takes more medication or takes it more frequently than prescribed.
Is Fioricet Addictive?
Yes, Fioricet is addictive. The Fioricet ingredient that causes addiction is butalbital. Codeine is also addictive, so Fioricet with Codeine has a greater potential for addiction and abuse. While Fioricet is not a drug that is frequently prescribed, people who do take it can become dependent on it. Over time the body builds up a tolerance to the drug, which means higher doses may be needed to get the same effect. As a result, Fioricet addiction occurs.
What is Butalbital?
Butalbital is a barbiturate. Barbiturates are a class of drugs that have been around since the early 1900s. They were used as sedatives and used to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders including seizures. Today, barbiturates are primarily used to treat seizures, insomnia and anxiety. People who take barbiturates tend to become dependent on them and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them.
Butalbital abuse occurs when people take it for reasons other than to treat their headache. Unlike other drugs that are frequently abused, a butalbital high doesn’t cause euphoria. A butalbital high is similar to being drunk. Butalbital may be used to treat the effects of other drugs of abuse. Barbiturates are “downers” so they counteract the effects of stimulants.
Fioricet with Codeine
Fioricet with Codeine is a stronger medication than Fioricet because, as the name implies, it also contains codeine. Codeine is an addictive narcotic pain reliever. As a result, Fioricet with Codeine may be more addictive and has a higher potential for abuse than regular Fioricet. Codeine is a stimulant, so when abused Fioricet with Codeine may not produce the desired effects that either ingredient would alone. However, people may use Fioricet with Codeine as a last resort to try to get high.
Fioricet with Alcohol
Fioricet should not be mixed with alcohol. Fioricet and alcohol are central nervous system depressants. Both of them cause drowsiness, impaired judgement, decreased coordination, memory problems and slurred speech. When taken together, these symptoms can be more severe and the person may feel and act very intoxicated or drowsy. The combination of Fioricet and alcohol may also increase the risk of overdose.
Fioricet Abuse Statistics
Compared to other drugs of abuse, barbiturate abuse is not that common. People who abuse barbiturates typically want sedatives like secobarbital (Seconal) or amobarbital (Amytal). Fioricet may be used when they cannot get their preferred barbiturate or are unable to find something stronger.
Signs of Fioricet abuse are similar to other prescription drugs of abuse. People who abuse drugs may have physical or behavioral changes. Some of the behavioral changes that may occur with drug abuse are:
- Taking more medication than prescribed
- Cravings and urges for the drug
- Unable to manage responsibilities at home, work or school
- Take more of the medication to get the desired effect
- Experience withdrawal symptoms
- Spend a lot of time getting, using and recovering from the drug
- Give up important social, recreational or work-related activities
- Seek out multiple doctors to get a prescription for the drug
- Use multiple pharmacies to fill their prescriptions
- Purchasing drugs online
The physical signs of Fioricet abuse are very similar to alcohol abuse. Other medications, such as sedatives or sleeping pills, antihistamines or allergy pills, and pain medicine can have similar effects. Physical signs of Fioricet abuse are:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of motor skills
- Taking more drug to get the same effect
People who abuse Fioricet may have behavioral signs as well. These signs also resemble drunkenness. Behavioral signs of Fioricet abuse may include:
- Lack of inhibition
- Impaired judgement
- Suicidal ideation
- Doctor shopping to get more drug
Side Effects of Fioricet Abuse
All medications have side effects. The side effects of Fioricet are primarily due to butalbital. Whether someone is taking Fioricet as prescribed or are abusing it, most of the side effects will be the same.
Short-Term Side Effects
As the body gets used to the medication, some of the side effects of Fioricet may go away. Some of these side effects can be bothersome. The short-term side effects of Fioricet include:
- Nausea and vomiting
Long-Term Side Effects
Long-term side effects of Fioricet are minimal. Drowsiness can be a side effect that never goes away. Barbiturates are depressants, so some people may always experience drowsiness when they take Fioricet. As the body becomes more tolerant to the drug, the side effects tend to become less noticeable. As tolerance and dependence on the drug develop, people may start to exhibit drug-seeking behavior to prevent withdrawal effects from Fioricet.
The difference between the amount of Fioricet needed to treat someone’s medical condition and the amount that can cause an overdose is very small. This is why barbiturates are so dangerous. Fioricet also contains acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen can cause severe liver damage that can lead to liver failure and death.
Symptoms of Fioricet overdose can be related to any of the ingredients in the drug. Overdose symptoms associated with butalbital are due to the effects on the central nervous system. The symptoms from acetaminophen are due to the effects on the liver. The amount of caffeine in Fioricet is quite low, so symptoms from too much caffeine are unlikely unless the person consumed excessive amounts of caffeine from other sources. If the person took Fioricet with Codeine, symptoms of an opioid overdose may also be present.
The initial symptoms of a Fioricet overdose primarily affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and central nervous system (CNS). Most of the initial symptoms are similar to the side effects of the drug. Someone may not realize they took a potentially lethal dose of the drug until it’s too late. The initial symptoms of a Fioricet overdose may include:
- Loss of appetite
The initial symptoms of a Fioricet overdose can progress to more advanced symptoms fairly quickly. The advanced symptoms of an overdose required medical treatment immediately. These symptoms include:
- Upper stomach pains
- Trouble breathing
- Clammy skin
- Dilated pupils
- Weak and fast pulse
Fioricet withdrawal can happen as early as a month after someone starts taking Fioricet. The brain develops a need for the drug fairly quickly and as soon as it is stopped withdrawal may occur. Fioricet withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe and may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
Key Points to Understanding Fioricet Addiction
Keep the following key points about Fioricet addiction in mind:
- Fioricet is used to treat headaches and migraines
- People can become addicted to the butalbital in Fioricet
- Mixing Fioricet with alcohol increases the risk of an overdose occurring
- Signs of a Fioricet overdose are primarily related to the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract
Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can address a substance use disorder alongside any co-occurring mental health disorders. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
Lopez-Munoz F.; Ucha-Udabe R.; Alamo C. “The history of barbiturates a century after their clinical introduction. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.” December 2005. Accessed August 25, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What to Do If Your Adult Friend of Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs.” January 2016. Accessed August 25, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.