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Fioricet Withdrawal & Detox

Written by Renee Deveney

& Medically Reviewed by Stephanie Hairston, MSW

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Fioricet is a medication for tension headaches that contains caffeine, acetaminophen and butalbital. Some formulations also include codeine. Butalbital, a barbiturate, and codeine, an opiate, are addictive substances that can cause tolerance and withdrawal. When people who are addicted to Fioricet want to stop using it, they may require admission to medically-supervised Fioricet detox to manage uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

While media coverage has increased state-wide awareness of the dangers of opioid drugs, not as many people in Washington are aware of the risks of Fioricet misuse. Barbiturates are a particularly dangerous class of drugs that caused a spike of overdose deaths in the 1950s and subsequently fell out of regular use. Butalbital is one of few barbiturate drugs that is still regularly prescribed by doctors.

While the combination of butalbital with other medications makes Fioricet less dangerous than pure barbiturate drugs, and while many people take it as prescribed with few or no side effects, people who become addicted to Fioricet are still at risk of serious complications of barbiturate use, including addiction and overdose. Fortunately, Fioricet detox and treatment is available in the state of Washington, including at The Recovery Village Ridgefield.

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Fioricet Withdrawal

Fioricet withdrawal symptoms occur because of the way Fioricet affects the brain. Barbiturates like butalbital enhance the function of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits and slows down the central nervous system (CNS). Codeine also depresses the CNS. In addition to helping people feel psychologically relaxed, butalbital and codeine act as muscle relaxers, alleviating the muscle tension that causes tension headaches.

As Fioricet wears off, the effects of GABA are diminished and the CNS temporarily becomes overactive. A hyperactive nervous system can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, causing people to react as if a threat is present. In addition to making people feel anxious, other symptoms of Fioricet withdrawal can include rebound headaches and general physical discomfort.

Fioricet Withdrawal Symptoms

Because codeine also depresses the respiratory and central nervous systems, Fioricet with codeine has similar effects as Fioricet without codeine. In addition to slowing down the CNS, both butalbital and codeine slow down the cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. This effect can cause the following side effects when the drug is active:

  • Confusion
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Slow or labored breathing
  • Constipation or indigestion

Fioricet withdrawal symptoms are essentially the opposite of Fioricet’s active effects and can include:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Tremors and muscle spasms
  • Delirium and hallucinations

In extreme cases, withdrawal symptoms of Fioricet can include seizures. Seizures and lack of oxygen caused by respiratory depression can cause permanent brain damage or death if not immediately addressed.

Fioricet Detox Timeline

Because barbiturate withdrawal can be fatal, most treatment centers help people who need Fioricet detox by administering butalbital or other barbiturates to them, slowly tapering the dose over time.

The most dangerous withdrawal effects occur in the first few days after a person stops using Fioricet. There are three general phases in the Fioricet withdrawal timeline:

  • Acute
  • Residual
  • Post-acute

The acute withdrawal phase lasts for three days to one week. During this phase of withdrawal, people are at risk of seizures, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, hyperthermia, delirium and psychosis. In addition to the potentially fatal effects of seizures and dangerously high fever, barbiturate withdrawal can cause death through circulatory failure.

As acute withdrawal symptoms abate, the residual phase of Fioricet detox begins. During this phase, the risk of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and medical complications is much lower. However, psychological withdrawal effects including anxiety, depression, irritability and mood instability can become more intense. People also tend to suffer from insomnia and other sleep problems during the residual withdrawal phase.

Most Fioricet withdrawal symptoms go away after two to three weeks. However, some people can experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms that last for several more weeks or even for several more months. The symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Slow cognition
  • Mood instability
  • Depressed mood
  • Fioricet cravings
  • Rebound headaches

Post-acute withdrawal effects reflect the effect of long-term Fioricet use on neurotransmitter levels and brain function. Risk factors for PAWS include co-occurring mental health conditions and a history of misusing multiple substances.

Effects that may appear to be caused by PAWS may be caused by an underlying mental health condition that was not previously detected or diagnosed. It’s important to get follow-up care to address these and other issues that can arise as the withdrawal period ends.

While it can be discouraging to experience PAWS, there is hope. The syndrome does not last forever. Neuroimaging studies and other research shows that the brain can recover from long-term substance use and even regrow gray matter. As the brain heals, the symptoms of PAWS slowly diminish and previous levels of cognitive functioning and emotional balance can be recovered.

Find a Fioricet Detox Treatment Center in Washington

The medical risks and complications associated with barbiturate withdrawal make medically supervised detoxification the only safe option for people who have become addicted to Fioricet and want to quit.

People may start their recovery in the emergency department of a hospital in cases of Fioricet overdose or severe withdrawal symptoms. They may complete their detox at a hospital or may proceed from the hospital to an addiction treatment program.

There are benefits to seeking direct admission to a substance abuse treatment facility that offers medically supervised detoxification or being transferred to a treatment facility after being medically stabilized in a hospital. Not only is it easier to coordinate care when a person proceeds from detox to treatment within the same program, but people can also start services like individual and group therapy while completing detox in a substance abuse treatment facility.

We are here when you are ready.

Speak with a Recovery Advocate today to talk about your treatment options.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield provides a full suite of substance abuse treatment services for people who need Fioricet addiction treatment in the state of Washington. At Ridgefield, people can receive medically-supervised detoxification services and proceed to partial hospitalization, residential or intensive outpatient treatment, depending on the severity of their Fioricet use disorder and other treatment needs.

If you are concerned about your Fioricet use and want to explore your treatment options, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield. A representative can answer your questions and help you identify the right level of care for your treatment needs.