Fioricet Addiction Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Understanding Fioricet Addiction 

Fioricet is a brand name combination medication prescribed for treating tension headaches. One of its main ingredients is butalbital, and as a result is considered a barbiturate medication. This is a class of sedative-hypnotic drugs that function like benzodiazepines by influencing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. They may also be used to help patients that suffer from seizures, although this is less common today as better alternatives are available.

Taken incorrectly, Fioricet is habit-forming and can easily lead to a person developing an addiction. The primary reason that this happens is related to the butalbital, which can produce a pleasurable high when taken in larger quantities. These effects make desirable for recreational use, increasing the risk for addiction and overdose.

If left untreated, a Fioricet addiction can be devastating for a person’s life. If the signs of one begin to develop, it is crucial to seek help from a qualified rehab center immediately, to break free from the cycle of substance abuse and begin living a drug-free life.

What is Fioricet?

Fioricet is a brand name medication that is composed of acetaminophen, butalbital and caffeine, serving mainly as a pain reliever and fever reducer. It was commonly abused in the 1960s and 1970s but has become less popular as stronger alternatives are now available. Despite this, the risk of addiction still remains if used improperly.

Of its main ingredients, butalbital is considered the most dangerous, but all three can cause problems if the drug is misused. Taken correctly though, the drug combination works together to amplify the drug’s intended effects.

When this happens, the acetaminophen works by blocking pain signals before they can reach the brain and the butalbital acts like a benzodiazepine by increasing the amount of GABA in the body, causing it to operate more efficiently. Doing this slows down how quickly pain signals fire in the brain, in turn effectively relieving pain for the individual. Lastly, the caffeine in Fioricet helps decrease pain for headaches by relaxing muscle contractions in blood vessels to increase blood flow through the body.

The medication is available in pill and capsule forms and will be marked with its name. When taken for recreational use, it is commonly crushed into a powder to be snorted or injected (when mixed with water). Doing this decreases the time the drug needs to take effect but comes with additional risks such as a higher chance of overdosing.

Nicknames for Fioricet

When used recreationally, drug dealers and users rely on nicknames for Fioricet so they can discuss and trade the drug without drawing unwanted attention from police or family members. Hearing one of these nicknames is a valuable tell for spotting an addiction, because those with a legitimate prescription have no reason to hide.

Some of the most common nicknames for Fioricet are actually nicknames for butalbital, these include:

  • Barbs

  • Blockbusters

  • Christmas trees

  • Downers

  • Pinks

  • Red Devils

  • Yellow Jackets

It is important to keep in mind that no list of drug nicknames can be all inclusive, as new ones are constantly being developed to avoid suspicion. For this reason, while knowing the nicknames can help to identify a user, it is important to be familiar with other traits of the drug, particularly its side effects.

How Addictive is Fioricet?

Interestingly, the butalbital in Fioricet is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) but Fioricet itself has no classification. This is unusual because it has been shown to be addictive and Fiorinal, another brand name option, is considered Schedule III. The two are similar in their modern forms, with the only difference being that Fiorinal uses aspirin in place of acetaminophen. Despite one being labeled a controlled substance and the other not, both should still be treated with caution. Furthermore, even though the national government does not classify Fioricet as a controlled substance, several state governments do.

The reason for Fioricet’s strange position comes from the acetaminophen in it. When in a ratio of at least 70 mg for every 15 mg of butalbital, the acetaminophen reduces the drug’s abuse potential to a level that allows it to avoid classification. This was not always the case with Fioricet in the past, but with modern regulations, it is required for all production of the drug.

When Fioricet does cause addiction, the culprit is the butalbital that is used to make it. In these situations, an individual usually becomes hooked on the pleasurable high that it can create, and through taking it regularly, their body responds to the high by adapting and forming a tolerance. Once this occurs, that person will require more of the drug to feel the same effects that they had grown used to, in turn speeding up the rate that their body continues to change. Eventually, this reaches a stage where the body has changed so much that it can no longer function without the drug and is left dependent on it. If the individual does stop using at this point, they will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that persuade most prospective quitters to continue using.

Signs & Symptoms of Fioricet Addiction

There are many situations where a person may become addicted to Fioricet. Typically, they either do not recognize that they have a problem, or they choose to hide their addiction due to feelings of fear and shame. When this happens, it is imperative to be able to recognize the side effects that come from misusing Fioricet to more effectively spot when it is being abused, and in turn help that person.

In the beginning, these side effects are usually minor and can be hard to recognize, but as use continues, they will grow more pronounced and more severe symptoms will start to appear. In most cases, the user will recover after they have stopped using Fioricet, but in some instances the symptoms may cause permanent damage.

Beyond the pleasurable high, some of the most common side effects to watch out for include:

  • Dizziness

  • Drowsiness

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Anxiety

  • Chills

  • Excessive sweating

  • Loss of appetite

  • Blurred vision

  • Seizures

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Insomnia

Fioricet Research

To better understand the prominence of Fioricet, it is useful to know some of the demographics and statistics related to the drug. These can help to reveal who is most at risk for abusing it, as well as where it stands in relation to other drug options.


A few statistics related to Fioricet and barbiturates to note include:


  • Barbiturate use peaked in the 1960s and 1970s and has steadily declined as benzodiazepines grew in popularity

  • For Fioricet to not classify as a federal controlled substance it must have a 97:15 mg ratio of acetaminophen to butalbital

  • Women are more likely to receive barbiturate prescriptions

  • Seniors are the largest demographic using barbiturates

Fioricet Addiction Treatment

When a person develops an addiction to Fioricet, quitting can seem like an impossible task once they are locked in the cycle of dependence and withdrawal. Thankfully though, with the help of experienced, licensed professionals, the user can find the support they need to quit using. Working with a rehab center is also the safer, more effective option than attempting to stop using on their own, or “cold turkey.” In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can present as especially dangerous, thus it is imperative to always seek the help of qualified medical and clinical professionals.

The process for helping someone break free from their Fioricet addiction can involve several levels of care, varying for each person. Most often, treatment begins with a process known as detoxification, otherwise known as detox. While in detox, all addictive substances are slowly removed from the body under medical and clinical supervision. It is essential to undergo this step in a medical setting, as licensed physicians can properly mitigate potential withdrawal symptoms with the use of interventions, such as medication and therapy. Additionally, detoxification offers the patient a chance to undergo the uncomfortable process of withdrawal in a safe space, removed from outside triggers and circumstances that may influence continued substance abuse.

After a patient has successfully completed detox, they can begin the transition into residential treatment, where the bulk of clinical therapy takes place. This level of care is vital to ongoing recovery success because it gives the patient an opportunity to address underlying causes of their addiction, as well as negative thinking and behavioral patterns that may contribute to their disorder. Additionally, clinicians will work with the patient to develop healthy coping mechanisms to help confront cravings and potential obstacles in recovery. Before leaving rehab, they will have a customized aftercare plan tailored to fit their specific needs. This can include additional therapy, extended care options, family therapy, vocational support and integration into local recovery support groups.

Help for Fioricet Addiction

If you or a loved one is currently suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, you should know that you are not alone. While it may seem impossible now, there is hope for a better tomorrow, and it begins with one simple phone call.

As a facility that specializes in addiction treatment, Brookdale can provide you and your family with the necessary tools to begin your life…recovered.