Fioricet is a brand name for the combination of butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine. It is most often prescribed to treat tension headaches. The butalbital treats the tension, and the acetaminophen and caffeine relieve the pain.
Fioricet is a useful drug when used responsibly, but it must be taken exactly as prescribed due to its highly-addictive properties and high potential for overdose. It is a Schedule III controlled substance according to the DEA.
Understanding Fioricet Abuse
Fiorcet contains butalbital, a barbiturate that functions by depressing your central nervous system. It slows down over-activity in the brain, thereby reducing the anxiety that causes tension headaches. CNS depressants also cause sedation, and impaired functioning. Even at fairly low doses, barbiturates like Fioricet can make you appear intoxicated.
Fioricet is potentially dangerous and must be taken under medical guidance. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “tolerance to the mood-altering effects of barbiturates develops rapidly with repeated use. But tolerance to the lethal effects develops more slowly, and the risk of severe poisoning increases with continued use.”
Addiction to Fioricet is very risky; as you become more dependent, it’s only a matter of time before you overdose, and even slight overdoses of barbiturates are often fatal.
Signs and Symptoms of Fioricet Abuse
According to the MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on barbiturate intoxication and overdose, symptoms include:
- altered level of consciousness
- difficulty in thinking
- drowsiness or coma
- faulty judgment
- lack of coordination
- shallow breathing
- slow, slurred speech
Excessive and long-term use of barbiturates may produce the following chronic symptoms:
- changes in alertness
- decreased functioning
- memory loss
Other signs of Fioricet addiction may include:
- needing to have a prescription refilled earlier than scheduled
- changes in mood
- changes in appearance or hygiene
- isolation from family and friends
- secretive behavior
- lack of interest in activities the user previously enjoyed
Dangers of Fioricet Abuse
As you continue to abuse Fioricet, you will develop a tolerance for the mood-altering effects of the drug, forcing you to increase your dosage to extremely unsafe levels because your body’s tolerance for the adverse physical effects of the drug will not increase at the same rate. This makes fatal consequences not only possible, but likely, as even a slight overdose of Fioricet can be deadly.
MedlinePlus lists the following possible complications of a barbiturate overdose:
- head injury and concussion from falls when intoxicated
- miscarriage in pregnant women or damage to the developing baby in the womb
- neck and spinal injury and paralysis from falls when intoxicated
- pneumonia from depressed gag reflex and aspiration (fluid or food down the bronchial tubes into the lungs)
- severe muscle damage from lying on a hard surface while unconscious, which may lead to permanent kidney injury
But even using Fioricet as directed can result in adverse reactions. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that acetaminophen, butalbital, caffeine are all capable of causing side effects.
Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- upset stomach
- stomach pain
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- skin rash
- difficulty breathing
Who Abuses Fioricet?
Some people begin abusing Fioricet while taking it by prescription. They may suffer from severe migraines that start as tension headaches, and out of a fear of migraine suffering, they take more Fioricet than is recommended.
Others abuse Fioricet to “get high” from the euphoric effects, or to combat panic attacks they may suffer from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.
When used legally, under a doctor’s instructions, Fioricet can be beneficial, improving your quality of life. It is an effective treatment for headaches, and when left untreated, chronic pain can harm you mentally as well as physically, leading to depression and suicidal thoughts.
However, overuse and abuse of the medication, like when you take Fioricet to enjoy a sense of euphoria instead of to treat headache, will lead to serious mental and physical consequences.
Addiction to barbiturates like Fioricet is especially dangerous due to the high risk of overdose. It is important for you to recognize that you have a problem and seek help before it’s too late.
Am I Addicted to Fioricet?
According to the DSM-5, a substance abuse disorder (addiction) is a problematic pattern where your drug use leads to clinically significant impairment or distress, as shown by at least two of the following occurring within a 12-month period:
- The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
- Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance.
- Recurrent use of the substance resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
- Continued use of the substance despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance.
- Recurrent use of the substance in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Use of the substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
- Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
- a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
- a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
- the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for that substance (as specified in the DSM- 5 for each substance).
- the substance (or a closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Fioricet Addiction Treatment
You may feel intimidated by the idea of drug addiction treatment. Perhaps you feel ashamed to ask for help, or too weak to face the challenges of overcoming drug abuse. Maybe you aren’t sure that you’ll be able to afford treatment.
These are all natural worries to have, but we can set you at ease on every point. There are quality, affordable treatment centers available everywhere, and we can help you determine the right one for who you are and for who you want to become.
As for feeling ashamed or weak, asking for help is one of the bravest, most important actions an addict will ever take. You can feel proud of yourself for reaching out and being bold enough to transform your life. Yes, it will be challenging, but you are strong enough. Remember that the benefits that you and your loved ones will enjoy will be worth it.
Because withdrawal from Fioricet is extremely dangerous, and possibly fatal, you must detox from the drug under a doctor’s care, ideally in a substance abuse treatment facility.
Fioricet withdrawal can be very similar to delirium tremens, a severe form of withdrawal that sometimes occurs during detoxification from alcohol.
Early on, you will likely become restless and weak. Then, during the second and third days, you may develop convulsions, which can be fatal if left untreated.
From the third to the fifth day, your untreated withdrawal symptoms would likely include:
- disorientation and delirium
You should never stop taking Fioricet abruptly, but rather follow a doctor’s instructions for weaning yourself off of the medication gradually.
Other addiction treatment modalities include:
- Counseling, or talk therapy, including individual, group and family/couples
- Recreational therapy that will find you active pastimes to strengthen you physically and mentally while giving you a healthy outlet for stress
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to replace old, negative ways of thinking with new ways of looking at drug use, and destructive patterns of behavior with positive coping mechanisms
- Relapse prevention and support services to teach you how to avoid relapse, how to get back on track if you do, and provide you with continued support after discharge