A tension headache is the most common type and is defined as pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. It is often felt like muscle tightness in these areas. Tension headaches occur when the neck and scalp muscles contract or become tense; these muscle contractions can be linked to stress, depression, head injury, or anxiety.
These headaches can occur at any age but are most commonly diagnosed in adults and older teens and are more common in women. Other triggers of tension headaches can be physical or emotional stress, alcohol use, caffeine, sinus infection, dental problems, eye strain, excessive smoking or fatigue, and overexertion. Butalbital is prescribed to treat tension headaches and provide pain-relieving effects.
What is Butalbital, and why is it used?
Butalbital is a barbiturate drug used for the symptomatic treatment of tension-type headaches and is most commonly prescribed with other medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine, or codeine. It is a short to intermediate-acting drug with anti-anxiety and muscle-relaxing properties that also produce CNS depression, ranging from mild sedation to general anesthesia. Butalbital has a narrow therapeutic index and a low degree of selectivity, which means it acts throughout the body.
How does Butalbital function?
Butalbital is a barbiturate prescribed when other non-opioid medications aren’t treating the headache. It is known to reversibly depress the activity of excited tissues, especially in the central nervous system or the CNS comprising the brain and spinal cord, in a non-selective manner.
It has anti-anxiety and muscle relaxing effects where pain perception and reaction are impaired. Butalbital is prescribed along with a non-opioid pain reliever, acetaminophen, which also reduces fever, and caffeine, which enhances the effect of acetaminophen. It works similarly to benzodiazepines and potentiates GABA-induced relaxation and calmness in the body.
What are the possible side effects caused by Butalbital?
The common side effects include-
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach upset
- Shaking or tremor
- Dizziness and drowsiness
The common side effects of Butalbital should decrease with time as your body adjusts to the dose. You should inform your doctor if they persist or get worse.
The severe side effects of Butalbital are-
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increase urination or thirst
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin
- Kidney problems and unusual tiredness
The severe side effects of Butalbital are unlikely, and it is advised that you inform your doctor and look for medical help if you notice them.
In the case of an older adult, you may be more susceptible to the side effects of Butalbital, and it is advised that you monitor your dosage intake and side effects regularly. A severe allergic reaction to Butalbital is rare, and it is advised that you call for immediate medical help if you notice rashes, itching or swelling of the face, throat, or tongue, severe dizziness, and difficulty breathing.
Precautions to be taken while using Butalbital-
- It can be addictive and habit-forming, especially if you or your family have a substance use disorder. It is suggested that you use your medication in moderation and keep your prescription stored away safely, especially from children.
- Abuse of Butalbital can lead to addiction and overdose, which can be fatal.
- It is advised that you abstain from alcohol and other CNS depressants as they can aggravate the side effects of drowsiness and dizziness produced by Butalbital.
- It would be best to inform your doctor about your medical history, especially liver or kidney disease, MAO inhibitors, breathing problems like asthma, stomach or bowel problems, bleeding and clotting disorders, any enzyme deficiencies, etc.
- If you use it for a long time or in high doses, you may develop a dependence or tolerance. It is recommended that you inform your prescribing physician if you think the dosage of Butalbital prescribed to you isn’t working instead of increasing it on your own.
How should you have Butalbital, and what are the ideal doses?
Butalbital is administered to treat tension headaches and can be had with or without food as directed by your doctor. Butalbital is available as a 40mg strength dose. Pain medication works best when the first signs of pain are noticed; if you wait until the pain gets worse, your medication may not work well. The dosage prescribed to you by your physician will be based on your medical condition, age, and response to treatment.