Butalbital Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, Withdrawal Risks & Treatment

Butalbital is a barbiturate commonly prescribed to treat headaches, migraines, and general pain. The drug is usually combined with acetaminophen or aspirin and caffeine, and is highly addictive on behalf of its relaxing, sedative effects.

Understanding Butalbital Abuse

Butalbital is a central nervous system depressant that produces sedative and euphoric effects to relieve tension, anxiety, and headaches. This barbiturate is available under the brand name Fioricet, and known as double trouble, red devils, and yellow jackets on the streets. In addition to being combined with aspirin and caffeine or acetaminophen, butalbital is sometimes combined with a highly addictive opioid called codeine.

Butalbital binds with brain receptors to reduce anxiety and muscle tension, and to produce feelings of extreme relaxation. Users who take the barbiturate as prescribed may experience a dulling of the senses, decreased motor activity, and respiratory depression. Those who use butalbital can become tolerant to the drug, and start using higher doses in an effort to achieve and prolong its euphoric effects.

After abusing butalbital for a period of time, users become physically dependent on the drug and require high doses to feel and function normally from day to day. Users who quit butalbital after becoming dependent on the drug may experience intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms that prevent them from staying clean long-term. Butalbital abuse can easily turn into addiction, and cause problems with your health, career, and overall well-being.

Signs and Symptoms of Butalbital Abuse

Butalbital abuse not only interferes with your health, but with important obligations that are often neglected in favor of drug use. For instance, you may spend less time doing activities you enjoy so you can devote more time to obtaining and using butalbital. You may be suffering from butalbital abuse if you use the drug more frequently than prescribed, use higher doses than prescribed, or use the drug without a valid prescription.

Common signs and symptoms of butalbital abuse include:

  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Memory loss
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Lying and secretive behavior
  • Loss of relationships and jobs
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when quitting
  • Mixing butalbital with alcohol and other drugs

Dangers & Risk Factors Associated with Butalbital Abuse

Butalbital abuse increases your risk for life-threatening health conditions, including death. Combining butalbital with alcohol and other substances increases your risk for an overdose or coma.

Serious health risks associated with butalbital abuse are:

  • Adverse reactions (Stevens-Johnson syndrome or anaphylaxis)
  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory depression
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Abusing butalbital can put undue stress on your liver and other organs, and increase the risk for organ failure, coma, or death. The sedative effects of butalbital can make you feel extremely drowsy and sleepy, and increase your risk for accidents if you attempt to perform normal daily activities such as driving. Butalbital abuse can eventually turn into an addiction, and be difficult to overcome without help and support in the form of addiction treatment.

Who’s At Risk of Butalbital Abuse & Addiction?

Any individual who uses butalbital and fails to use the medication as prescribed is at risk for butalbital abuse and addiction. The barbiturate interferes with brain chemistry in a way that causes users to develop a tolerance and physical dependence. Individuals who abuse alcohol and other substances are at especially high risk for becoming addicted to butalbital.

You may be at risk for butalbital addiction if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You have a personal history of drug abuse or addiction
  • Drug abuse or addiction runs in your family
  • You suffer one or more mental health disorders (bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD)
  • You have a history of trauma or abuse
  • You are surrounded by negative influences at home
  • Your home life is stressful
  • You have problems at work, school, or home

Butalbital Addiction

Butalbital abuse can turn into a full-blown addiction if you need high doses of the drug to feel and function “normally” throughout the day. Addiction to butalbital can be difficult to overcome on your own when you’re physically dependent on the drug and are unable to quit using due to intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Many times, butalbital serves as a gateway drug to more powerful substances capable of producing stronger highs and more intense, euphoric effects.

Since butalbital is commonly prescribed by doctors to treat a number of health conditions and symptoms, many who suffer from addiction to this barbiturate may engage in doctor shopping. Doctor shopping is the act of visiting multiple doctors in different healthcare networks for the sake of obtaining multiple prescriptions. Patients who are unable to refill butalbital prescriptions head to the streets to replenish their supplies, and risk purchasing counterfeit butalbital, and butalbital mixed with deadly, potent substances.

Am I Addicted to Butalbital?

You may be addicted to butalbital if you suffer cravings and withdrawal symptoms when not using this drug. If you think you have a problem with butalbital addiction, ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you need help. You or your loved one may not know you have a problem with addiction until it’s too late.

  • Am I using butalbital in high doses or more frequently than prescribed?
  • Have I been using butalbital for longer than directed?
  • Am I being secretive about butalbital use?
  • Am I considering using a stronger drug to overcome tolerance to butalbital?
  • Am I mixing alcohol and other drugs with butalbital?
  • Am I stealing or using someone else’s butalbital prescription?
  • Am I making excuses to use butalbital?
  • Am I obtaining butalbital from friends, family, or drug dealers?
  • Is butalbital use interfering with my career, education, and relationships?
  • Do I experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms when quitting butalbital?
  • Am I having problems quitting butalbital and staying sober?
  • Am I engaging in doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions for butalbital?
  • Am I experiencing problems when performing normal daily tasks?
  • Am I neglecting my personal health and hygiene?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be suffering from butalbital abuse or addiction. Your next step is to speak with a drug abuse counselor about your options for local addiction treatment centers that can help.

Butalbital Addiction Treatment Options

Addiction treatment for butalbital helps you overcome physical dependency on the drug, along with psychological factors driving your addiction. Butalbital addiction is commonly treated using detoxification, counseling, and aftercare. These three therapies are designed to help you overcome addiction as a whole so you can return to living a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life free of drug use.

Detoxification helps you withdraw from butalbital, while counseling helps you manage and overcome behaviors or mental health disorders causing your addiction. Aftercare programs offer ongoing education and support aimed at helping you stay sober and clean long after treatment has ended.

The best drug rehab centers will customize addiction therapies just for you based on your personal recovery needs and unique history with addiction. For instance, if your goal is to overcome addiction without the use of drugs or medications, you may be put through a holistic detox treatment that uses massage and nutrition as withdrawal therapies. If your goal is to avoid any physical discomfort associated with withdrawal, you may be put through medical detox so you can relieve your symptoms using one or more medications.


Detoxification is often the first stage of addiction treatment, and helps you safely withdraw from butalbital and other substances. After completing detox, you’ll no longer experience physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting butalbital. The detox process as a whole has the ability to strengthen your immune system, and offers the mental clarity you need to combat addiction from a psychological standpoint.

Quitting butalbital abruptly has life-threatening consequences due to the way this drug alters your brain chemistry. Many times, the body goes into shock as brain chemicals attempt to rebalance — increasing the risk for seizures, coma, and death. Common butalbital detox methods include tapering, medical detox, and holistic detox.

Butalbital withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Rebound headaches
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures

Tapering is when your doctor gradually reduces your butalbital dosage over time until you’re no longer using the drug and have completely overcome physical dependency. Tapering allows your body to adjust to lower doses, and helps you avoid cravings and withdrawal symptoms that would otherwise arise when quitting abruptly.

Medical detox is usually a more rapid detox process, but involves the use of medications that reduce or eliminate one or more withdrawal symptoms. For instance, you may be prescribed a sleep aid to combat insomnia throughout withdrawal. With medical detox procedures, rehab staff will monitor your health 24/7 to ensure you experience the safest, most comfortable recovery possible.

Holistic detox helps you withdraw from butalbital safely and naturally without the use of drugs or medications. This detox process is ideal for those suffering a mild addiction to butalbital, and may involve treatments including acupuncture, daily massage, and IV vitamin therapy. These treatments may be combined with nutrition counseling, exercise, and relaxation therapy to promote healthy and sober living following addiction treatment.


Drug rehab centers offer all the therapies you or your loved one needs to successfully overcome butalbital addiction and achieve lifelong sobriety. Butalbital addiction treatment can last anywhere between 30 days and several months, or as long as needed until you’re fully ready to face the world as a sober, addiction-free individual. Following detox, rehabilitation usually consists of counseling aimed at addressing underlying mental causes of addiction.

Drug rehab centers guide you through establishing a new, healthy daily routine packed with activities that leave no time for drug use. Learn tips and tricks for avoiding relapse and staying sober in stressful situations, and discover new hobbies and interests that replace butalbital use. Many rehab centers even offer recreational therapies such as horseback riding, hiking, and journaling — all of which are proven effective at treating addiction.

Butalbital addiction treatment can take place at inpatient and residential facilities, or in outpatient settings. Inpatient and residential facilities allow you to live on site throughout recovery, and are ideal for those overcoming long-term and/or severe addictions. Inpatient drug rehab centers also offer safe, peaceful environments free of drugs, distractions, and negative influences, along with 24/7 access to medical support throughout recovery.

Outpatient drug rehab centers are ideal for those overcoming mild addictions, and who must also balance work, school, and family lives. Outpatient drug rehab allows you to live at home for the duration of treatment, and visit the rehab clinic several times per week for counseling and aftercare. Outpatient addiction treatment works best for those who have safe and supportive home environments, and who lack negative distractions that would otherwise interfere with recovery.

Get Help Today

Nobody should ever have to overcome addiction on their own without help and support, including you. If you’re struggling with addiction to butalbital, understand you’re not alone in your fight and that help is available and nearby. Quitting butalbital on your own increases your risk for relapse, overdose, and death.