Fioricet is used to manage headaches and contains three different drugs: acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine. Find out if people can abuse Fioricet and if addiction is possible.

Is Fioricet addictive? Do people abuse Fioricet? These are two common questions people have about Fioricet, which is a medication combining acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine. The following provides an overview of what Fioricet is, and also explains whether or not it’s addictive and the signs of Fioricet abuse.

What Is Fioricet?

Fioricet is the brand name of a combination drug that’s used for the treatment of headaches that can include tension headaches, headaches from muscle contractions and post-dural puncture headaches. While not an official indication, Fioricet is also often given to treat migraines and other causes of pain.

The three components of Fioricet do the following:

  • Acetaminophen is a pain reliever, and it also acts as a fever reducer
  • Butalbital is a barbiturate that can help relax muscles which often lead to tension headaches
  • Caffeine is included in Fioricet because it stimulates the central nervous system and helps improve blood flood through the blood vessels

Some Fioricet may also contain codeine, so it contains both butalbital and another potentially addictive narcotic.

There are certain people who are advised against taking Fioricet. These people include anyone who has a history of liver disease or cirrhosis, people who drink more than three alcoholic beverages a day, and people with a history of substance abuse. It’s also not intended for use in people with kidney disease, breathing disorders, or a history of suicidal thoughts or mental illness.

Some of the potential side effects of Fioricet include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling restless or anxious
  • Feeling drunk or intoxicated
  • Sleep problems

The more severe side effects that can occur with Fioricet include confusion, seizures, shortness of breath, nausea, upper stomach pain, or jaundice.

So is Fioricet addictive? The answer is yes, which will be detailed below. With that in mind, the prescribing of Fioricet is intended to be a last resort for migraine sufferers. Doctors are advised to exhaust all other possible routes of treatment before prescribing this addictive, habit-forming drug.

Is Fioricet Addictive?

While it seems like opioids get the bulk of the attention right now regarding prescription medication addiction, Fioricet is addictive. When people take Fioricet, they should be warned of the potential for Fioricet abuse and Fioricet addiction. It’s the butalbital that may be habit-forming in Fioricet, and if it contains codeine, that element may also be.

Butalbital is a central nervous system depressant, and it can sedate how a person feels pain. This is combined with the pain-relieving effects of acetaminophen, which works differently than the butalbital.

So how do Fioricet abuse and Fioricet addiction occur?

When someone is addictive to Fioricet, it usually begins as tolerance. With a drug tolerance someone takes the substance for a period of time, and then their body becomes used to it, so they need continuously higher doses to get the same effects.

A tolerance can be developed for butalbital as well as codeine if it’s contained in Fioricet. There is research that shows the average barbiturate addict may need to take 1500 mg of the drug to feel the effects they want. Unfortunately, people who are addicted to Fioricet also often take other opioids and narcotics either to amplify the effects of the Fioricet or when they run out of it to achieve the same effect.

What are the signs of Fioricet addiction?

  • One of the first outward signs of Fioricet addiction is often when people start doctor shopping, meaning they try to go to multiple doctors to get more of the drug.
  • People may be taking more doses of Fioricet for the treatment of recurring headaches.
  • You may have not only a physical dependence but also a Fioricet addiction if you start to experience symptoms of withdrawal when you stop taking it or take a lower dosage.
  • People who are addicted to Fioricet may feel like they can’t function normally without it.
  • When you’re addicted to Fioricet, you may be obsessed with finding it and taking it.

While all addictions to prescription drugs are worrisome, with Fioricet, there is not only the concern of being addicted to the butalbital, but there are the risks of the acetaminophen component of the drug. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage or failure when high amounts are taken, and it can be an acute situation where it happens very suddenly. It’s important for people who take Fioricet to be aware of this.

Acute liver failure can occur in doses of more than 4,000 mg in a day.

In addition to the dangers of acetaminophen, with Fioricet abuse, there is the risk of overdosing on butalbital as well. Butalbital can cause respiratory depression and excessive sedation, so Fioricet addiction is dangerous in multiple ways.

If you or someone you know may have a Fioricet abuse problem, it’s important to seek professional help, because it’s an addiction that can very easily be dangerous or deadly.

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Conor Sheehy
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more
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