Butalbital is a barbiturate drug classified as a depressant, more commonly known under the name Fioricet. It is often prepared in combination with acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine and is prescribed for the treatment of tension headaches, facial pain, migraines, insomnia, anxiety issues and general pain. Occasionally, the drug is also combined with the narcotic Codeine to enhance pain-relieving properties. By binding with receptors in the body, Butalbital acts as a sedative by reducing muscle tension and alleviating anxiety, causing the patient to relax. Falling under the barbiturate category, Butalbital is a sleep-inducing drug that acts as a strong central nervous system depressant. The medication has the ability to depress the user’s senses, decrease motor activity, alter brain function and produce sedation, hypnosis and dose-dependent respiratory depression. It can also cause nightmares and hallucinations. Butalbital has the potential to be abused or to cause addiction because of the strong barbiturate medication contained in it. When the drug is taken for more than one month’s time, brain chemistry is altered and the brain develops a need for the drug in order to function. Severe symptoms can occur if the drug is then suddenly withheld from the user.

Butalbital: How it Works in The Body

Butalbital, or Fioricet, contains numerous substances that all serve their own purpose when taken. Let’s take a closer look at all of the ingredients in this prescription medication and what their effects are on the body:

  • Acetaminophen Acetaminophen is considered a mild painkiller, and is the main ingredient in Tylenol. It can help block pain from headaches or relieve general body pain.
  • Butalbital This central nervous system depressant causes drowsiness, sedation and can impair the user’s senses. It is one of two potentially addictive substances in Fioricet.
  • Caffeine Caffeine is considered a mild stimulant that helps increase users awareness and to be more alert. It can also ease headache pain.
  • Codeine This is an opioid pain medication used to treat mild to moderately severe pain. This would be considered the second potentially addictive substance in Fioricet, though not all types of Fioricet have Codeine added.

Butalbital Abuse and Street Usage

Butalbital can become habit forming with prolonged use or by abusing the dosage. Many abusers are people suffering from tension headaches, sleep disorders and migraines. The average daily dosage for someone addicted to Butalbital is about 1,500 mg per day, although this amount varies greatly among addicts. As the body’s tolerance for the drug increases, the need to increase the dosage of the drug is necessary to maintain the desired level of intoxication and feeling of euphoria. The person abusing the drug can ingest too much Butalbital because of this tolerance, which can lead to the possibility of a fatal overdose. When Butalbital is paired with alcohol, it becomes even more dangerous and places the user at severe risk for adverse or life threatening reactions.

For some drug addicts, Butalbital is more than a mood relaxer or pain medication. The pills are often considered secondary drugs, as they act like a downer or stabilizer for those also taking stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamines. Street names for Butalbital or Fioricet include yellow jackets, downers, goof balls, red devils, or double trouble.

Butalbital is considered to have a small therapeutic-to-toxic window, meaning there is a fine line between a dosage that would lead to drowsiness or euphoria in a user or one that can lead to coma or death.

Usage and Side Effects of Butalbital

Butalbital is most often taken orally and comes in solid tablet form, capsule or solution, and can also be crushed up into a powder. Some forms of the drug have a very long half-life that enable it to accumulate in the body, with repeat doses causing more side effects.

Common side effects of Butalbital may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • light-headedness,
  • Feelings of intoxication
  • Nausea
  • Sedation
  • Euphoric feelings
  • Severe impairment of judgment

Side effects that are more serious can include:

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Respiratory depression
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shock

Addiction to Butalbital: The Signs

The need to satisfy the increasing physical and psychological drug dependence of Butalbital puts the user at great risk. Addicts will sometimes engage in dangerous behavior in order to obtain drugs. His or her appearance can also change dramatically over time and he or she may gain or lose weight. They may also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and will often seek seclusion and withdraw from loved ones. A Butalbital addict may start to lose performance skills and can exhibit memory loss, depression, confusion, anxiety, hostility, aggression, and increased heart rate. They run the risk of losing important relationships like family and friends and can also experience the loss of their health and employment.

Butalbital Withdrawal and Detoxification

Because of the intense physical and psychological dependence effects Butalbital can have on the body, withdrawing from the drug suddenly can cause severe symptoms. The user may experience sweating, muscle pain, agitation, insomnia, hallucinations and even seizures. These withdrawal symptoms can last up to sixteen days after the final barbiturate dose. Since Butalbital withdrawal symptoms can be moderate to severe, it is not suggested that a user stop taking the drug or attempt to detox on his or her own without medical support or the help of a rehabilitation treatment center.