Fioricet is a medication commonly used to treat headaches and migraines. It contains three active ingredients: butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine. Butalbital is in a class of drugs called barbiturates.
Barbiturates depress the central nervous system (CNS) causing sleepiness. Barbiturates are addictive. When someone takes a barbiturate frequently, their body becomes dependent on the drug and tolerance develops. The dependence causes them to need more drug to get the desired effect.
Unfortunately, Fioricet can cause a rebound headache. A rebound headache is a headache that happens within a few days of the previous headache and is caused by the medication used to treat the first headache. This leads to the person taking more Fioricet to treat the rebound headache, which causes dependence and tolerance to happen quickly.
What Causes Fioricet Withdrawal?
Fioricet withdrawal happens when someone stops taking the drug after their body becomes dependent on it. Tolerance develops quickly with Fioricet, even when taking it as prescribed by the doctor. When it is taken for a long time or in large doses, mental or physical dependence may occur. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects when someone is no longer taking the drug.
How Long Does Fioricet Stay in Your System?
Fioricet is a long-acting medication, so it stays in your body for a long time. Pain relief for headaches typically occurs within an hour or two of taking the drug. While the desired effects of the drug are noticed fairly quickly, the butalbital component can stay in the body for a couple of days. Because it takes so long for the drug to get out of your system, withdrawal symptoms may not start for several days after the drug is stopped. This can also pose a challenge for someone who may want to detox because it will take long for the drug to get out of their system and withdrawal symptoms may last a lot longer than expected.
Fioricet Withdrawal Symptoms
Fioricet withdrawal symptoms are similar to alcohol withdrawal. Most of the withdrawal symptoms affect the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or stomach. Fioricet contains three active ingredients, so withdrawal symptoms can originate from any of them.
Common Fioricet Withdrawal Symptoms
Not everyone experiences the same withdrawal symptoms, but some common Fioricet withdrawal symptoms are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Rebound headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fast heartbeat
Acetaminophen withdrawal symptoms are rare. However, the body can become dependent on acetaminophen, just like it does with any other drug. When the body is used to having a drug present, it behaves differently when it is not there. Symptoms of acetaminophen withdrawal may include:
- Intense pain
Symptoms of butalbital withdrawal are similar to alcohol withdrawal. Many of the withdrawal symptoms are a result of the effects butalbital has on the brain. The most common symptoms of butalbital withdrawal include:
- Tremors or shakiness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Rebound headache
- Nausea and vomiting
One of the most common side effects of caffeine withdrawal is a headache. Experiencing a headache may encourage continued use of Fioricet for relief. Other symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include:
- Difficulty concentrating
Symptoms of Fioricet with Codeine withdrawal are similar to regular Fioricet, but also include symptoms of codeine withdrawal. Codeine is a prescription pain reliever also known as an opioid. Symptoms of codeine withdrawal that may occur in addition to the previous mentioned symptoms of Fioricet withdrawal are:
- Muscle aches
- Fast heartbeat
- Enlarged pupils
Fioricet Withdrawal Timeline
Fioricet stays in the body for a long time. Withdrawal symptoms may start within 16 hours and last up to five days after stopping the drug. It can take up to two weeks for withdrawal symptoms to completely go away.
Factors Impacting Fioricet Withdrawal
There are many factors that affect Fioricet withdrawal. Genetics affects how the body uses the drug. Some people are more sensitive to the drug than others. Some people will experience more side effects and some may have more severe withdrawal symptoms. A person’s kidney and liver function may also impact Fioricet withdrawal. The amount of drug a person takes each day and how long they have been taking it can also impact the length and severity of withdrawal.
The factors that impact Fioricet withdrawal can also have an impact on detox. The length of time it takes to detox is different for everyone. It can take up to two weeks to get all of the Fioricet out of the body. The most severe withdrawal symptoms typically occur within the first few days after the last dose. After about five days, the withdrawal symptoms start to go away, but mild symptoms can persist for a few weeks.
- Detoxing at Home
Detoxing at home can be dangerous. Fioricet withdrawal symptoms can last a long time and can be severe. Severe withdrawal symptoms require medical treatment. Stopping the drug cold turkey is also extremely dangerous and can lead to seizures, which if untreated can cause permanent brain damage or death. The severity of symptoms cannot be predicted, so detoxing at a treatment center is recommended.
If someone chooses to detox at home, it is safest to not stop Fioricet use cold turkey. People should gradually decrease the amount of medication taken on a daily basis over several weeks, which may prevent some of the withdrawal symptoms. This process takes a lot of discipline and willpower. A setback can occur when withdrawal symptoms develop.
- Detoxing at a Treatment Center
Detoxing at a treatment center provides the best opportunity for long-term recovery. Medications may be used to treat the symptoms of withdrawal. Some people may even be treated with a barbiturate to minimize withdrawal symptoms. The dose is gradually decreased until the person can safely stop it without experiencing withdrawal.
Medical detox allows a person to get the drug out of their system under medical supervision. Before medical detox begins, an evaluation will be done to develop a plan to meet the person’s needs. After the evaluation, medical detox begins. When medical detox is completed, the person will transition to a treatment program to provide support and resources for long-term recovery.
Inpatient rehab happens in a dedicated facility when someone stays for an extended period to focus on their recovery. The length of treatment depends on the needs of the individual. This type of program is more structured and provides more intensive medical, psychiatric and social support than outpatient rehab.
Outpatient rehab allows the person in recovery to live at home while getting the support and tools they need to maintain their sobriety. Outpatient rehab programs provide a variety of options to meet the needs of the individual. The options can be intensive and structured or more flexible and relaxed.
Finding a Detox Center
Finding a detox center that is right for you or your loved one doesn’t need to be an intimidating experience. A quality detox center should focus on you and your recovery and provide the tools and support you need to be successful. Signs of a quality treatment facility are:
- Accredited or certified by the state
- Offers medication to assist with recovery when indicated
- Follows evidence-based practices for treating addiction
- Allows families to participate in treatment
- Provides treatment and support beyond addiction
Key Points to Understanding Fioricet Withdrawal and Detox
The key points to understand about Fioricet withdrawal are:
- Fioricet is used to treat headaches and migraines
- Fioricet contains butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine
- People can develop dependency from butalbital
- Butalbital, acetaminophen and caffeine can all have unique withdrawal symptoms
- Withdrawal symptoms can last for five days
- Professional treatment is the safest way to detox from and address a substance use disorder
Romero CE.; et al. “Barbiturate Withdrawal Following Internet Purchase of Fioricet.” July 2004. Accessed August 26, 2019.
Toxnet. “Butalbital.” June 16, 2011. Accessed August 26, 2019.
Healthline. “8 Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal.” Accessed August 26, 2019.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Finding Quality Treatment For Substance Use Disorders.” Accessed August 26, 2019.