How Long Does Fioricet Stay in Your System? Half-Life & Drug Tests

Last Updated: July 1, 2021

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Fioricet is the brand name for a prescription-only medication that contains butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine. It is used for the treatment of severe headaches, such as tension headaches and migraines.

As it contains butalbital, a barbiturate, many people want information on whether it may show up on a drug test.

How long does Fioricet stay in your system? How does it work? Will it show up on a drug test? This article will discuss how it works in the body, its metabolism, half-life, and more.

Fioricet Metabolism Process

As this medication is a combination of 3 different drugs, the body metabolizes these substances differently.

Butalbital is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Elimination of the drug happens via the kidneys. Some metabolites can also be present in the urine sample.

As for acetaminophen, the elimination of the drug is by liver metabolism, followed by renal excretion of the different metabolites. Acetaminophen is very hard on the liver for this reason and may cause liver failure.

Caffeine is rapidly absorbed by the body. The drug clears through the urine. It’s interesting to mention tests may find metabolites but find only 3% unchanged caffeine.

How Does Fioricet Work?

This drug is FDA-approved for the treatment of tension headaches alone, though it is used off-label for other severe forms of headache.

How does Fioricet work? Each of the three active ingredients treats a tension headache differently.

Butalbital, as a barbiturate, causes a depressant effect on the central nervous system. It helps calm the individual, which is particularly useful as tension headaches are frequently caused by stress. It explains why it is dangerous to combine with other depressants, like alcohol.

Man holding his forehead because of a headache.

Acetaminophen has analgesic properties and is well established in the treatment of mild pain and headaches. However, its analgesic action is not fully understood. It may either be due to inhibition of the synthesis of chemicals known as prostaglandins or by binding one of its metabolites to cannabinoid receptors.

The medical action of caffeine is linked to its antagonist effect on adenosine receptors, which results in constriction of blood vessels in the brain. On its own, caffeine does not reduce pain from headaches. However, it has been shown to increase another drug’s action, such as acetaminophen.

Duration of Action

This medication is a mixture of three different drugs, so its onset and duration of action are not so straightforward. From practical use, however, it has been found that its analgesia can be felt within one or two hours of taking the medication. Its action persists for up to six hours after taking it for most users of the drug.

Fioricet Half-Life

It is not possible to give a single value as regards Fioricet half-life. That is because as a drug that contains three different components, each one has a half-life of its own, and these can not be added to give a general Fioricet half-life. Instead, the half-life of Fioricet components will provide a more accurate picture.

The half-life of acetaminophen is much shorter, ranging from one hour and 15 minutes to 3 hours. Similarly, the plasma half-life of caffeine is 3 hours.

Factors That Influence the Duration & Elimination

Besides the half-life of a medical substance, other factors will influence the amount of time it acts in a person, and the time it takes to be eliminated. That it has three active ingredients makes its elimination slightly more complex.

These Factors Include:

  • The dosage of the drug used
  • Duration/history of use
  • Genetic factors
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Metabolic rate
  • Use of other drugs, such as alcohol
  • Lifestyle factors such as physical activity and diet
  • The general state of health

Fioricet Drug Test: Can It Be Detected?

Although people don’t abuse barbiturates as they did a few decades ago, officials, companies, or health professionals may still test for Fioricet medication. For instance, EIA (immunoassay technique) and GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) can detect barbiturates.

Doctor holding a blood sample for a fioricet drug test.

So, although having a Fioricet drug test is not common, some tests can find the drug in the system, and results can show positive for barbiturates. That’s because it contains Butalbital, and Butalbital is an intermediate-lasting barbiturate.

How Long Does Fioricet Stay in Your System?

There are reasons why it is essential to have information on how long this medication stays in the system. It is a prescription-only medication, and many people use the drug for legitimate health conditions. They may worry about when it will still show up on a Fioricet drug test, and for that reason, it is essential to know the period it stays in the system and various body fluids.

How Long Does Fioricet Stay in Your Urine?

Urinalysis is among the most popular forms of drug testing. Although testing for the three ingredients of Fioricet is not universal, detection in urine is possible. So, how long does Fioricet stay in your urine? The detection time is up to 7 days in most cases.

How Long Does it Stay in Your Blood?

Tests can detect this drug in blood. They can detect Butalbital intake for up to 72 hours.

What Duration of Time Does it Stay in Saliva?

The medication can be detected in swab tests, although it’s not a common procedure. The detectable levels in oral fluid show positive for up to 2 days.

What Duration of Time Does it Stay in Hair?

As most labs don’t do hair tests for Butalbital, there’s no precise data. However, have in mind that hair tests have a long detection window (up to 90 days).

However, it is important to keep in mind that these detection times are influenced by factors such as those earlier stated. These can affect how long the substance can be detected in different mediums. Therefore, this information can be considered to be the average values.

Take Caution with Fioricet

Many people are prescribed this drug to take care of severe headaches. It is crucial to understand how it works in the body and stays in the system, especially because it contains a barbiturate.

After a prescription has been exhausted, some individuals may continue taking and misusing the drug, sometimes in combination with other drugs like alcohol. It is important to know that this is a risk.

To avoid any significant complications or side effects, such as dependence, the drug should only be prescribed by a medical doctor. Severe misuse cases may warrant the help of a professional treatment center. It will allow for prompt treatment without complications and a path to better health.

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Page Sources

  1. United States Food and Drug Administration, Fioricet Prescribing Information, 2011, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/020232s033lbl.pdf
  2. Anderson B. J. (2008). Paracetamol (Acetaminophen): mechanisms of action. Paediatric anaesthesia, 18(10), 915–921. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18811827/
  3. Lipton, R. B., Diener, H. C., Robbins, M. S., Garas, S. Y., & Patel, K. (2017). Caffeine in the management of patients with headache. The journal of headache and pain, 18(1), 107. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5655397/
  4. Mazaleuskaya, L. L., Sangkuhl, K., Thorn, C. F., FitzGerald, G. A., Altman, R. B., & Klein, T. E. (2015). PharmGKB summary: pathways of acetaminophen metabolism at the therapeutic versus toxic doses. Pharmacogenetics and genomics, 25(8), 416. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498995/

Published on: June 6th, 2017

Updated on: July 1st, 2021

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.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.