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Individuals who suffer from tension-type headaches, which aren’t alleviated by over-the-counter (OTC) medications, may find help with combination drugs that include butalbital.
Commonly prescribed as Fioricet (caffeine/acetaminophen/butalbital) or Fiorinal (caffeine/aspirin/butalbital), butalbital is a sedative in the medicines class of barbiturates.
While the drug produces intense relaxation and eases the pain of a tension headache, it is not without some risks.
Tension Headaches Leading To Fiorinal Dependence
The most common kind of headache disorder, a tension headache happens when neck and scalp muscles become rigid, or contract, meaning they compress down. This causes pain, often defined as a rubber-band-around-the-head feel or a pressure feeling, on both sides of the head.
Tension headaches can be triggered by several factors, including lack of sleep, anxiety, hunger, temperature changes, and stress. They may occur at any age but are more prevalent amongst adults and older teens. Some individuals are more prone or vulnerable to developing tension headaches than others, but the reason behind this is unclear.
Fortunately, most tension headaches are mild in pain and can be easily alleviated with rest, fluids, removal of the trigger, and/or an over-the-counter medication like Motrin (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen). Behavioral therapies, too, such as physical therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be useful.
Effects of Butalbital That Cause Fiorinal Addiction
When the recurring tension headaches do not dissipate with other treatments, your doctor may prescribe Fioricet or Fiorinal. Codeine may also be included in this combination of medicine. While this prescription is very effective in the short-term, there are several things to watch out for.
Butalbital is a barbiturate; this means that it helps to slow down the CNS and relax the muscle tension believed to be associated with tension headaches.
Before taking medicines containing butalbital, tell your doctor if you:
- are allergic to any ingredients in the medicine, such as acetaminophen or aspirin.
- are taking blood thinners, antidepressants, antihistamines, or other sedatives such as tranquilizers or sleeping pills
- currently have or previously had liver disease, depression, or porphyria
- are breastfeeding, pregnant, or want to become pregnant
Side Effects of Fiorinal Misuse
Fiorinal and Fioricet should be taken with milk or food to prevent gastric problems. Individuals who have taken medications containing butalbital have reported the following side effects:
- Upset stomach
- Stomach pain
More severe side effects may occur and could be signs of allergy or serious issues. See your doctor immediately if you observe any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
Risks of Fiorinal Abuse
Butalbital-containing medications are habit-forming and will often lead to addiction and other problems with prolonged use. Risks of taking Fioricet and Fiorinal include:
Intoxication from Fiorinal
Butalbital slows the CNS, leading to a lack of coordination, problems with thinking and memory, slowness of speech, disinhibition, and emotional disturbances. Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery when using medicines containing butalbital.
Fiorinal Overuse Headache
Medication overuse headache is a type of headache disorder that occurs when a person takes some medicines too frequently to treat their headaches. These headaches are common in patients who take butalbital medications.
With Fioricet or Fiorinal, a medication overuse headache or rebound headache can occur from taking it three times a week or ten or more days a month.
Besides, medication overuse headaches are often not responsive to preventive headache medications. This lack of response to other drugs is often a clue to doctors that a medication overuse headache has already developed.
Medications containing butalbital should be limited to two days per week to avoid this rebound effect.
Withdrawal Due To Fiorinal Compulsion
When taking butalbital, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms 8 to 36 hours after the last dosage. Withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, muscle twitching, tremor, weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, weight loss, and even seizures when the medication is discontinued.
Due to the risk of seizures with a withdrawal from butalbital, medical treatment in a monitored setting under the care of a physician is indicated.
Tolerance and Fiorinal Addiction
Tolerance and addiction may also occur with butalbital. Tolerance means that a person needs more of the medication to achieve headache relief. Persistent behaviors, like compulsions, characterize addiction to butalbital, to take a butalbital-containing medication.
These behaviors impair their life in some way, negatively impacting relationships and/or everyday functioning.
Do not take Fioricet along with other medications that contain acetaminophen as it can be toxic to the liver.
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