Fioricet Abuse and Addiction
By The Recovery Village Ridgefield
Editor Theresa Valenzky | Medically Reviewed By Leila Khurshid BCPS, PharmD
Last Updated: May 26, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Fioricet is a combination prescription medication available with or without codeine. It is commonly used to treat headaches. However, even when taken as prescribed, this medication can be addictive.
What Is Fioricet?
Fioricet is a combination prescription medication usually prescribed for tension headaches. Despite being a non-controlled medication, it should be cautiously prescribed as one ingredient, butalbital, can be habit-forming. It is also available in a formulation with codeine and, in this case, is classified as a Schedule III medication under the Controlled Substances Act for its increased potential for abuse.
Fioricet is intended as a headache pain reliever in either case. Therefore, Fioricet with codeine should only be used after non-opioid pain relievers have failed.
What Is in Fioricet?
Fioricet is a combination product made of butalbital, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and caffeine. It is also available as Fioricet with codeine which contains the same active ingredients as Fioricet alone but with the addition of 30mg codeine. The addition of codeine increases the potential for misuse and, as a result, is a controlled prescription.
Is Fioricet Addictive?
Fioricet can be addictive. One Fioricet component (butalbital) belongs to a class of potentially habit-forming drugs called barbiturates. These medications are depressants and work by activating the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system. Over time, it can require more of the drug to get the same effect — this is called tolerance. When taken recreationally, barbiturates can produce feelings similar to being drunk.
Fioricet with codeine has a higher addiction risk because codeine, an opioid agonist, works on the brain’s mu-opioid receptors. While codeine produces a much more mild effect, this is the same way other opioids like oxycodone and heroin work. When abused, medications containing codeine can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation or “high.”
Signs of Fioricet Addiction
Fioricet and Fioricet with codeine have the potential for misuse. If you or a loved one exhibit the following signs, you might be addicted to Fioricet:
- Taking more Fioricet than prescribed, or taking it differently than prescribed
- Taking Fioricet at inappropriate times like work or school
- Craving Fioricet when you try to stop
- Damaging relationships
- Stealing or borrowing money from work or school
- Secretive or defensive behavior about using
- Losing interest in usual activities
Side Effects of Fioricet Addiction
Fioricet, with or without codeine, can be addictive, and severe consequences can result when taken differently than prescribed or used more than prescribed. Initial side effects of using Fioricet include:
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain.
However, over time these side effects can subside.
For those with a Fioricet addiction, complications typically arise from taking too much acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can result in liver damage. In addition, butalbital affects the central nervous system and can cause respiratory depression or sedation. The caffeine content of Fioricet is relatively low and unlikely to cause significant damage unless additional caffeine is taken in substantial amounts.
Fioricet can cause withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly or weaned too quickly because of this medication’s action in the brain. While each person may experience withdrawal differently, general Fioricet withdrawal symptoms include:
- Sleep problems
Professional medical detox can help you manage Fioricet withdrawal and give you the best chance for a drug-free life. In medical detox, you are under supervised medical care with professionals who regularly monitor for signs and symptoms of Fioricet withdrawal and treat them as clinically indicated. This minimizes the discomfort of quitting Fioricet, and your healthcare team can guide the next steps after the medical detox is complete.
Finding Treatment For Fioricet Addiction
Fioricet addiction is dangerous to you and those around you. Taking more of this medication than prescribed can have long-term health implications, which you may be able to reverse by quitting Fioricet. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can start taking your life back.
The Recovery Village Ridgefield is here to help. Our Joint Commission-accredited facility offers several different treatment options to serve you best. Our compassionate medical professionals are trained to monitor withdrawal signs during medical detox and provide the care you need. Whether you require inpatient or outpatient treatment, we offer a full continuum of care.
What Our Clients Have To Say
What Our Patients Have to Say
If you or a loved one are misusing or abusing Fioricet, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. Contact us today to speak with an admissions counselor who will provide you with a customized treatment plan.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
- US National Library of Medicine. “Label: Fioricet with Codeine.” Updated March 1, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022.
- US National Library of Medicine. “Label: Fioricet.” Updated January 1, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription Opioids DrugFacts.” June 1, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022.
- TN Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Warning Signs of Drug Abuse.” 2022. Accessed September 15, 2022.