Fioricet Medication: Uses, Side Effects, and Precautions

Fioricet is more prominently known as a painkiller or a pain reliever for tension headaches and contains a combination of drugs that work together to relieve symptoms of a headache

What is a tension headache?

TTH or tension-type headaches is a mild to moderate pain that feels like a tight-fitted band tied around the head. The symptoms of tension headaches are –

  •  A dull and aching pain in the head
  •  Feeling of pressure or tightness across the forehead or on the back and the sides of the head
  •  Tenderness in the neck, shoulders, and scalp

There are two types of tension headaches-

  • Episodic – These can last from 30 minutes to a week and occur less than 15 to 16 days a month for at least three months. If episodic tension headaches become frequent, they may become chronic 
  • Chronic – Chronic tension headaches can last for hours and may be continuous. If the headaches occur for more than 15 days a month for at least three months, they are considered chronic.

Tension headaches generally require proper treatment as it becomes difficult to function. Fioricet is one of the most common medications prescribed by doctors in the US.

What is Fioricet?

Fioricet is a combination medication comprising acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine. It belongs to the barbiturate, analgesic, and adenosine antagonist class of drugs, and you can use it along with other medications. However, it is advised that you inform your doctor about your medical history and the medications you are currently taking so they can prescribe the correct dosage for you. 

How does Fioricet work?

Acetaminophen in Fioricet is a non-opioid medication that alleviates pain and reduces fever. Acetaminophen works by impairing the production of the prostaglandin chemical in the brain that activates pain messages or signals in the nervous system. Caffeine is a stimulant that raises blood pressure since low blood pressure worsens headaches by causing blood vessels to expand and push against the brain.

Caffeine causes the blood vessels to constrict and enhances the blood flow, which helps relieve pain. It also enhances the effects of acetaminophen. Butalbital is a sedative barbiturate that stimulates the brain’s production of Gamma-aminobutyric Acid or GABA. That is responsible for decreasing the overactivity in the brain and relaxing muscle tension while producing a calming feeling in the body.

What are the possible side effects of Fioricet?

The common side effects include-

  •  Drowsiness 
  •  Dizziness
  •  Lightheadedness
  •  Shortness of breath 
  •  Nausea or vomiting
  •  Abdominal pain and feeling of intoxication

The common side effects of Fioricet should decrease with time as your body adjusts to the drug. It is advised that you inform your prescribing doctor if they get worse.

The severe side effects include-

  •  Diarrhea
  •  Dark-colored urine
  •  Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  •  Loss of appetite and weight loss
  •  High blood pressure and convulsions

The severe side effects are unlikely, and it is advised that you inform your doctor and immediately look for medical help.

A serious allergic reaction to Fioricet is rare. However, if you notice side effects like rashes, itching or swelling of the face, throat, and tongue, severe dizziness, and difficulty breathing, you should call for immediate medical help.

Precautions to be taken while using Fioricet 

  • Before using Fioricet, it is advised that you inform your doctor about your medical history, especially about liver disease, kidney disease, blood pressure problems, breathing problems, personal or family history of a substance use disorder, mood disorders, and stomach problems like ulcers.
  • Fioricet can make you dizzy and drowsy; it is advised that you abstain from consuming alcohol, cannabis products, and other CNS depressants as they may aggravate your side effects.
  • If you have been using Fioricet for a long time, you may develop dependence or tolerance. It is suggested that you inform your doctor if you think the dosage prescribed to you isn’t working instead of increasing it on your own.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you are advised only to use Fioricet if needed, as it may cause unwanted and serious side effects on your baby.
  • In the case of older adults, you may be more sensitive to the side effects of Fioricet, and it is advised that you monitor your dosage intake and side effects regularly.

How should you have Fioricet?

Fioricet is orally administered to patients with tension headaches and can be had with or without food as directed by your prescribing physician. The adult dosage for headaches is 1 to 2 capsules to be taken every four hours for pain not exceeding six capsules per day. The dosage of Fioricet prescribed to you will be based on your medical condition and response to treatment. If you have been using Fioricet for a long time, it is advised that you taper your dosage with time to avoid withdrawal symptoms as instructed by your doctor.

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