Fioricet is a prescription medication used for treating tension headaches. Fioricet contains the ingredient butalbital, which has the potential for causing addiction. Fioricet addiction peaked in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, Fioricet abuse is much less common.
Butalbital is a barbiturate medication. Barbiturates work by binding to gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in brain cells. GABA is a chemical signal sent between brain cells that slows down other chemical signals. Other drugs can increase GABA, including benzodiazepines, alcohol, and gabapentin.
Barbiturates used to be prescribed to control seizures before safer medication became available. Barbiturates cause high levels of sedation and can be addictive if abused.
What Is Fioricet?
Fioricet is the brand name for a combination medication that contains acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine.
Butalbital chemical structure is similar to other barbiturates and it has similar effects. Butalbital alone is a Schedule III controlled medication as classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Schedule III medications have the potential for abuse. Fioricet, however, is not scheduled federally and falls under exemption rules by the DEA.
Fioricet contains enough acetaminophen that it is not considered to have high abuse potential. Despite this limitation, some states still classify it as a scheduled medication. Fioricet is a scheduled medication in:
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Fioricet Street Names and Brand Names
- Christmas trees
- Red Devils
- Yellow jackets
Different brand names for butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine include:
- Capacet (discontinued)
- Margesic (discontinued)
- Phrenilin Forte
What Is Fioricet Used For?
Fioricet is used for tension headaches. A tension headache is mild to moderate pain in the head that can be located in the front, back or the sides. People describe having a tension headache as feeling like they have a tight band around their head.
Tension headaches are the most common types of headaches, but Fioricet is not commonly prescribed for them because there are safer options to use.
Tension headaches can last for minutes, or they can last for days. Some people experience more than 15 days of headaches in a month. When that many headaches are experienced it’s identified as a chronic tension headache.
Each of the ingredients in Fioricet works to help with the managing headaches:
- Acetaminophen: Stops the production of a chemical in cells called prostaglandin. Prostaglandin tells brain cells to fire pain signals. Blocking prostaglandin stops or lowers the experience of pain.
- Butalbital: Attaches to GABA receptors in brain cell membranes. Butalbital increases levels of GABA in the brain, which slow down pain signals. The ingredient causes drowsiness and sleepiness.
- Caffeine: A stimulant for the central nervous system (CNS). When blood pressure is too low in the brain, blood vessels expand and push on adjacent brain cell tissue. Caffeine causes vessels to tighten, or constrict, which helps decrease pain from headaches.
How Addictive Is Fioricet?
Is Fioricet addictive? It could be, but it’s likely not very addictive in the Fioricet combination pill form.
Butalbital — one of the ingredients in Fioricet — is combined with other medications to reduce its abuse potential. The DEA classifies butalbital as a Schedule III substance, so it has the potential to be abused when it’s on its own. Fioricet has a low potential for abuse but is not commonly prescribed.
Fioricet Addiction Statistics
Most organizations in the United States, including the DEA, do not track barbiturate abuse statistics because barbiturate abuse is uncommon. Barbiturates are included with other prescription drugs for monitoring purposes. Prescription drugs are the second-highest abused category of drugs after marijuana.
Key Points: Fioricet Addiction
Keep the following key points in mind regarding Fioricet Addiction:
- Fioricet contains acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine
- Fioricet is used to treat tension headaches
- Butalbital is a barbiturate medication that has the potential for abuse
- When butalbital is combined with acetaminophen, like in Fioricet, it is not considered an abusable drug
- Barbiturate abuse is not common in the United States
If you live with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative who will help get you started toward a healthier future. You deserve good health, call today.
Drug Enforcement Agency. “2018 National Drug Threat Assessment.” 2018. Accessed May 30, 2019. Drug Enforcement Agency. “Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide.” 2017. Accessed May 30, 2019. Mayo Clinic. “Butalbital, Acetaminophen, And Caffeine (Oral Route).” 2019. Accessed May 30, 2019. Mayo Clinic. “Tension Headache – Symptoms and Causes.” 2017. Accessed May 30, 2019. PubChem. “Butalbital.” 2019. Accessed May 30, 2019. WebMD. “Barbiturate Abuse.” 2007. Accessed May 30, 2019.
Drug Enforcement Agency. “2018 National Drug Threat Assessment.” 2018. Accessed May 30, 2019.
Drug Enforcement Agency. “Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide.” 2017. Accessed May 30, 2019.
Mayo Clinic. “Butalbital, Acetaminophen, And Caffeine (Oral Route).” 2019. Accessed May 30, 2019.
Mayo Clinic. “Tension Headache – Symptoms and Causes.” 2017. Accessed May 30, 2019.
PubChem. “Butalbital.” 2019. Accessed May 30, 2019.
WebMD. “Barbiturate Abuse.” 2007. Accessed May 30, 2019.