Fioricet Addiction and Treatment

Last Updated: December 18, 2019

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded higher death rates due to painkiller abuse than cocaine and heroin. In 2010, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 2.4 million people in the US had used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes for the first time that same year.
It is an alarming trend to see painkillers and prescription medications used to treat all kinds of body pains being sold in millions, multiplying by the number each year. Fioricet, a pain reliever often given to alleviate acute headaches, is among those that are abused. Fioricet addiction now happens consciously and unconsciously, most of the time, starting as medical prescriptions that go overboard.

What is Fioricet?

Fioricet is a prescribed medication for migraines and other forms of severe headaches. It has three major components, namely, Butalbital, Acetaminophen, and Caffeine.

Components of Fioricet

Butalbital is a barbiturate, a drug that works as a depressant to sedate a person’s ability to feel certain sensations at varying levels, depending on the person’s tolerance.
Acetaminophen, on the other hand, is an analgesic, which relieves pain and fever. Taking too much of this drug causes severe damage to the liver. In extreme cases, liver transplants are necessary to prevent death.
Caffeine, like the one found in coffee, soda, and chocolates, acts as a mild stimulant that treats certain types of headaches. The amount present in Fioricet is relatively low.
Fioricet with Codeine is available, which is even more addictive due to the presence of the opiate drug Codeine. Opiates are synthetic drugs that instigate euphoria while reducing the pain that is felt by the body.
Among the four, Butalbital and Codeine are the most addictive drugs.

How Does One Get Addicted to Fioricet?

Either by prescription or non-medical use, an individual can start the journey to Fioricet addiction, due to the drug’s tolerance-building nature. A level of tolerance can be developed for both drugs. When this happens, the user needs higher doses to achieve the same results as before. The average Fioricet addict, just as any barbiturate addict, takes about 1500mg of the drug to achieve the same level of satisfaction.
Can Fioricet get one high? Of course. Many Fioricet addicts use the drug with other opiates and narcotics to amplify the effects of the latter. Some use Fioricet as a temporary replacement for more powerful narcotics whenever they run out of stock.
Fioricet is considered the last option for migraine treatment, only when all other options fail to provide the necessary cure.

Symptoms of Fioricet Addiction

Some of the Fioricet use signs:

  • Visiting various doctors to receive multiple prescription (Doctor Shopping)
  • An ever-growing tolerance to the drug, requiring higher doses to cure headaches
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after Fioricet intake has been stopped or reduced
  • Helplessness in everyday functioning without the drug
  • Focusing purely on taking Fioricet (obsession)

Fioricet Side Effects

Taking the drug, regardless of addiction or not, causes lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, shortness of breath (and other breathing problems), and a sense of intoxication. Additional, though rarer, symptoms include itchiness and skin rashes, muscle pain, gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, gas, and heartburn. High temperatures, leading to fever, as well as dry mouth, and issues swallowing are also possible.
Taking Fioricet with alcohol, tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants, and anesthetic drugs may mean the enhancement of the effects of one or both drugs. This causes extreme side effects, or worse, coma and death. High amounts of Acetaminophen taken in Fioricet can also be fatal, or at the very least, cause damage to the liver.
Fioricet is also known to make the user sleepy and calm. These are normal side effects and are nothing to be concerned about.

Fioricet – What Doesn’t Mix

Primarily, because Fioricet side effects include drowsiness, one should not complete any tasks that require to be alert all the time, such as driving. One should also avoid mixing Fioricet with alcohol, due to the Acetaminophen it contains. This is because mixing alcohol and Acetaminophen can increase chances of liver disease.

One should also inform a doctor if one has any allergies to the ingredients of Fioricet, as well as any previous medical conditions, such as liver disease.
This medication should be taken with caution, only when needed, especially during pregnancy. Overusing the drug can cause harm to the baby as it may experience withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Other Interactions

Fioricet can speed up the removal of other drugs from the body by affecting enzymes. Therefore, the influenced drugs consisting of estrogen, doxycycline, and blood thinners, may not have their intended effect on the body. It is also essential to know how long Fioricet stays in the system.
One should recognize that Fioricet contains caffeine, so it’s important to monitor such drinks as cola, coffee, and some energy drinks have high caffeine content.
Fioricet can also decrease the effectiveness of some birth control, such as pills or implants, resulting in pregnancy. Therefore, one should inform a doctor if one is on birth control to discuss the best methods of dealing with potential issues that may arise from using Fioricet with birth control and how to recognize signs that it isn’t working. One of the most popular interaction is Fioricet with codeine that causes fatal dangers to the person.

How Fioricet is Administered

Fioricet is taken orally, with or without food depending on doctor’s advice. It is usually taken around every four hours if required. Fioricet can also be taken in liquid form, however, should only be measured on the measuring equipment specified to avoid an overdose.
The dosage of Fioricet is entirely dependent on the person taking the drug and is based on many factors such as age, response to the drug, current health, and medical situation.
Try to keep track of Fioricet use not to exceed the prescribed amount.

Fioricet Isn’t Working – Should I Take a Bigger Dosage?

If the current dosage of Fioricet isn’t effective, then one should consult a doctor. One should not take a larger dosage of the drug without consulting a medical professional. Fioricet is a mixture of three different drugs; therefore, increasing dosage is not simple and can quite easily cause an overdose.
The reason for Fioricet dosage is no longer effective may be because one has built up a tolerance to the drug, or even a tolerance to Butalbital. This will mean that one will need a higher dosage to get the same effects one previously had. If this is the case, it is likely that a substitute drug may be a better option.
In the meantime, whilst one is waiting to consult a doctor, there are a few things that may help to ease tension and migraine headaches:

  • Massages
  • Hot Baths and Saunas
  • Yoga and other relaxation techniques
  • Exercise
  • Breathing Exercises – such as deep, rhythmic or visualized breathing

These techniques will help to relieve stress and may cause pain to go away naturally.
If one notices a desire to take a more massive dose than prescribed, then one should speak with a doctor immediately. This may be a sign that one is becoming addicted and reliant on Fioricet, and a doctor may be able to offer a similar drug as a replacement.

Fioricet Overdose

Fioricet overdose can be fatal, so at the first signs of an issue, one should seek medical help.
The first and clearest signs of an overdose are:

  • Appetite Change
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Disorientation or Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Stomach Pains

Overdoses can be triggered by a mixture of Fioricet with other drugs, as well as the excessive consumption of Fioricet.

Later signs of overdose include:

  • Dark or painful urination
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes
  • Increased stomach pain
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Fainting

Medical testing can be performed throughout Fioricet use. This will help to monitor side effects, ensuring Fioricet does its job while safeguarding against an overdose.

Overdose may result in toxicity and for 1 in 10 people heart or lung problems. The death rate from overdose is over 10% if treatment is delayed.

Fioricet Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest when an addicted individual suddenly quits the substance intake. In the case of Fioricet, the experienced symptoms may include physical effects such as nausea, convulsions, tremors, as well as psychological effects such as feelings of anxiety, delirium, and hallucinations. According to the FDA, these begin up to 16 hours after the drug was taken last.
People who are withdrawing from the drug also feel emotional, depressed, anxious, and irritable. Some have hypertension, depression of the respiratory system, and confusion.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

As soon as addiction is suspected or determined, the patient should consult a medical specialist for treatment. Prolonging addiction and withdrawal will only end in severe cases such as liver failure or coma.
There are many drug addiction treatment methods available for Fioricet addicts. Outpatient and inpatient rehabs are available in many drug abuse facilities. However, of the two, inpatient rehabilitation programs are preferable due to the comprehensive and continuous medical attention that can be provided to the patient.
Patients are free of the usual daily obligations related to living and running his or her house. When enrolled in an inpatient drug rehabilitation program, the patient can fully concentrate on the rehab until he or she has fully recovered.
Apart from professionally-supervised weaning, patients receive different types of therapies depending on what most suits them. Support and psychosocial activities are provided to divert their attention from compulsive Fioricet intake. Mental and psychological therapies are also available, where pain management is taught.
Most of all, patients have significantly lower risks of relapse. Recovering from addiction is a challenging path, but it is totally possible with the help of the right people and institution.

Page Sources

  1. Medline Plus. Acetaminophen, Butalbital, and Caffeine. 2019.
  2. The FEP Pharmacy Medical Policy Committee. Butalbital Analgesics. 2017.

Published on: October 28th, 2015

Updated on: December 18th, 2019

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


Leave a comment

  • Betsy
    I have been taking fioricet for over 20 years at different quantities different times. I am stabilized at 1-1/2 daily tablets and just two days ago, I went cold turkey! I was told by my neurologist to try this but taking Advil/Tylenol and caffeine without Butabulatal. So far no signs of any reaction. I am so desperate to get this poison out of my system for so long but have always been fearful of withdrawal/seizures. I am constantly praying to beat this addiction once and for all. I pray for all who are struggling with this horrendous addiction. No doctor should have ever prescribed such harmful drug and similar drugs that causes patience to suffer severely. I believe “Fear” plays a big psychological part on our addiction or kicking off addiction. Wishing you all to think no drugs is always best! Betsy
  • Vanessa
    I was on it for close to 30 years. The biggest nightmare of my life.I almost died numerous times. I’ve been clean for a little over nine months. Oh how wonderful life is without it!! I had to come clean and tell my PCP that I was am addict.l will pray for you! My Faith has carried me through all of this!