What’s the difference between Fioricet and Fiorinal?

Fioricet and Fiorinal are both used to treat tension headaches. Both medications contain butalbital and caffeine, but Fioricet also has acetaminophen whereas Fiorinal contains aspirin.

This combination of drugs is used to relieve tension headaches.

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Unlike acetaminophen, aspirin also treats inflammation and swelling. Neither medication is considered a first-choice option for treating tension headaches. Another difference is that while Fiorinal is a schedule III controlled substance, Fioricet might or might not be classified as a controlled substance in your state. This is because Fioricet is currently on the DEA list of exempted prescription products, meaning it’s up to the individual states how they regulate it.

Fioricet is a popular medication approved to treat symptoms of tension headaches. Migraines affect close to one billion people worldwide. More than an intense headache, people with migraines know well that the symptoms can linger for days and disrupt their daily life. While there are many treatment options for treating migraines, approximately 6% of patients use Fioricet to control the symptoms. If you suffer from migraines or someone you know takes Fioricet, keep reading to learn about addiction’s side effects and risk factors.

If you or a loved are in need of a drug addiction treatment program in Florida, contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today at 866.326.4317 for more information about your options and to learn how we can help.

What Is Fioricet?

Fioricet is the brand for a combination medication with FDA approval to treat some types of tension headaches. It helps relax muscle contractions involved with tension headaches and has been used extensively off-lave; for migraines. Fioricet contains a blend of:

  • Butalbital (50mg): A type of barbiturate that helps with muscle relaxation
  • Acetaminophen (300mg): An over-the-counter analgesic that helps to relieve pain
  • Caffeine (40mg): Added to enhance the effects of acetaminophen

Some types of Fioricet also contain codeine, a potent narcotic and opioid used to treat pain.

Side Effects of Fioricet

This medication can cause severe side effects. While taking Fioricet, you should avoid drinking alcohol, as mixing alcohol and acetaminophen can increase your risk of liver disease. People with asthma, kidney disease, and a history of mental illness or suicidal thoughts should also avoid using this medication. It may also negatively interact with other medications that have a sedating effect. Combining sedatives can slow breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels. It’s important to disclose all medications to your doctor or pharmacist to avoid risks of drug interactions. In rare cases, acetaminophen can cause a severe skin allergic reaction that can turn lethal. Fioricet can also pass into breast milk, so pregnant women should seek medical advice about any side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drink feeling
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • A light-headed feeling
  • Nausea
  • Upper stomach pain
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

Is Fioricet Addictive?

Although Fioricet is a valid prescription medication, it has the potential to cause addiction. When someone follows their prescription guidelines and directions, the risk of addiction is shallow. However, if someone exceeds their dosage, they may develop tolerance to its effects. Particularly, the active ingredient butalbital may be habit-forming. Fioricet can make you feel very relaxed or high when taken in high doses, as with other prescription drugs. Again, these effects are largely produced from the butalbital and codeine in Fioricet. Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants, so taking more than prescribed can produce a high that feels similar to alcohol intoxication.


Most symptoms of Fioricet withdrawal last anywhere between 8 hours to three days. However, factors like ingesting alcohol, metabolism, and using other substances may extend the withdrawal timeline. Rebound headaches are the most common sign of withdrawal. Other symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Tremors
  • Weakness


Interestingly enough, while butalbital is the habit-forming ingredient in Fioricet, acetaminophen is the most likely to cause an overdose. An overdose is a medical emergency that can be fatal without medical assistance. Signs of overdose include:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Fainting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

Fioricet and Codeine

In addition, some formulas of Fioricet contain codeine, a potent opioid. Codeine enhances the medication’s pain-relieving effects, but it also increases the risk of overdose and addiction. If you or someone you know needs a Fioricet prescription, be sure to ask for the opioid-free version of the drug. Misuse of Fioricet with codeine, either accidentally or intentionally, may lead to lethal respiratory depression. Shallow breathing, a slow heart rate, and intense confusion are other overdose symptoms from Fioricet with codeine. Fioricet with codeine should not be taken in combination with serotonergic drugs, like some types of antidepressants or anxiety medications.

Signs of Fioricet Addiction

Fioricet abuse signs are very similar to other prescription drugs. People who abuse prescription drugs tend to experience physical and behavioral changes that include:

  • Taking more medication than prescribed
  • Experiencing cravings and burgers for the drug
  • Taking more of the medication to get the same effects
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, and recovering from the drug
  • Seeking out multiple doctors to get a new prescription
  • Using multiple pharmacies to feel their prescription

Physical Signs

Physical signs of addiction are very similar to alcohol abuse. Medications like sleeping pills and pain medicines have similar effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Coma

Psychological Signs

The behavioral signs of substance abuse resemble drunkenness and usually include:

  • Lack of inhibition
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts

Addiction Treatment Options

There are several options to treat prescription drug addiction. Since Fioricet causes withdrawal symptoms, most people will start their journey with a medical detox followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment.

  • Medical detox—Involves assisting the patient in removing all of the Fioricet and other substances from the body under a controlled environment to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Inpatient treatment—Allows patients to stay at a facility for an extended period of time to focus solely on their recovery.
  • Outpatient treatment—Provides more flexibility for patients who want to seek treatment but prefer to stay at home. Patients still attend individual and group therapy throughout the week.
  • Partial hospitalization program—A treatment option for Fioricet addiction lets patients attend treatment throughout the day but return home at night.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment—Ideal for patients with addiction and mental health disorders, dual diagnosis treatment helps treat both conditions simultaneously.

Seek Help at Lighthouse Recovery Institute

While Fioricet can be an effective treatment for tension headaches, it has its fair share of side effects and risks. Ask your doctor for medical advice on other treatment options that don’t cause withdrawal symptoms or the possibility of developing an addiction. Call your doctor about other medications, Botox, over-the-counter pain relievers, and other lifestyle support measures such as biofeedback, yoga, and acupressure that might help manage symptoms more safely.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our admission specialists can walk you through a drug screening assessment to better understand your state. If you or someone you know is abusing prescription drugs, reach out to an addiction specialist today and stop your vicious cycle. Addiction can cost you your life, but recovery is widely available. Call 866.326.4317 today and start your recovery journey.






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