Why Does Fioricet Work for Headaches?

What causes headaches?

Doctors don’t fully understand what causes most headaches. They do know that the brain tissue and the skull are never responsible since they don’t have nerves that register pain. But the blood vessels in the head and neck can signal pain, as can the tissues that surround the brain and some major nerves that originate in the brain. The scalp, sinuses, teeth, and muscles and joints of the neck can also cause head pain.

When Fioricet enters the brain, it acts similarly to several other CNS depressants (e.g., alcohol, benzodiazepines) by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).  GABA inhibits or slows certain processes in the brain and creates a relaxed feeling.  For this reason, doctors frequently prescribe CNS depressants for their ability to promote sleep and reduce anxiety.

How Does Fioricet Work ?

  • Fioricet is a combination pain-reliever (analgesic) containing acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine.
  • Experts aren’t sure exactly how acetaminophen works, but suspect it blocks a specific type of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzyme, located mainly in the brain.
  • Butalbital belongs to the class of medicines called barbiturates. When used for pain due to tension headaches experts believe it works by relaxing muscle contractions and causing sedation via an enhancement of the inhibitory effects of GABA (a neurotransmitter that regulates communication between brain cells).
  • Caffeine is thought to enhance the pain-relieving effects of acetaminophen by up to 40%. In addition, it has vasoconstrictive properties, narrowing blood vessels in the brain thereby decreasing blood flow and oxygen tension (before a headache or a migraine, blood vessels tend to enlarge). This also helps to relieve pain.
  • Fioricet belongs to the class of medicines known as barbiturates because it contains butalbital. It may also be called a combination analgesic.

When to worry about a headache

You can take care of many types of headaches by yourself, and your doctor can give you medication to control most of the tougher headaches. But some headaches call for prompt medical care. Here are some warning signs for when you should worry about headaches:

  • Headaches that first develop after age 50
  • A major change in the pattern of your headaches
  • An unusually severe headache
  • Head pain that increases with coughing or movement
  • Headaches that get steadily worse
  • Changes in personality or mental function
  • Headaches that are accompanied by fever, stiff neck, confusion, decreased alertness or memory, or neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances, slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or seizures
  • Headaches that are accompanied by a painful red eye
  • Headaches that are accompanied by pain and tenderness near the temples
  • Headaches after a blow to the head
  • Headaches that prevent normal daily activities
  • Headaches that come on abruptly, especially if they wake you up
  • Headaches in patients with cancer or impaired immune systems

Types of headaches

There are more than 300 types of headaches, but only about 10% of headaches have a known cause. The others are called primary headaches. Here is a rundown on some major primary headaches.

Tension headaches

Occurring in about three of every four adults, tension headaches are the most common of all headaches. In most cases, they are mild to moderate in severity and occur infrequently. But a few people get severe tension headaches, and some are troubled by them for three or four times a week.

The typical tension headache produces a dull, squeezing pain on both sides of the head. People with strong tension headaches may feel like their head is in a vise. The shoulders and neck can also ache. Some tension headaches are triggered by fatigue, emotional stress, or problems involving the muscles or joints of the neck or jaw. Most last for 20 minutes to two hours.

If you get occasional tension-type headaches, you can take care of them yourself. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, other brands) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve, other brands), or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, other brands) often do the trick, but follow the directions on the label, and never take more than you should. A heating pad or warm shower may help; some people feel better with a short nap or light snack.

If you get frequent tension-type headaches, try to identify triggers so you can avoid them. Don’t get overtired or skip meals. Learn relaxation techniques; yoga is particularly helpful because it can relax both your mind and your neck muscles. If you clench your jaw or grind your teeth at night, a bite plate may help.

If you need more help, your doctor may prescribe a stronger pain medication or a muscle relaxant to control headache pain. Many people with recurrent tension-type headaches can prevent attacks by taking a tricyclic antidepressant such as amitriptyline (Elavil, generic). Fortunately, most people with tension-type headaches will do very well with simpler programs.

Migraine

Migraines occur less often than tension headaches, but they are usually much more severe. They are two to three times more common in women than men, but that’s small consolation if you are among the 6% to 8% of all men who have migraines. And since a Harvard study of 20,084 men age 40 to 84 reported that having migraines boosts the risk of heart attacks by 42%, men with migraines should take their headaches to heart.

Neurologists believe that migraines are caused by changes in the brain’s blood flow and nerve cell activity. Genetics play a role since 70% of migraine victims have at least one close relative with the problem.

Migraine triggers. Although a migraine can come on without warning, it is often set off by a trigger. The things that set off a migraine vary from person to person, but a migraine sufferer usually remains sensitive to the same triggers. The table lists some of the most common ones.

Major migraine triggers

      • Changing weather: rising humidity, heat
      • Lack of sleep or oversleeping
      • Fatigue
      • Emotional stress
      • Sensory triggers: bright or flickering lights, loud noises, strong smells
      • Dietary triggers:
        • missing a meal
        • alcohol, especially red wine
        • chocolate
        • nitrates in cured meats and fish
        • aged cheese
        • an increase or decrease in caffeine
        • MSG (often present in Asian and prepared foods)

Migraine symptoms. Migraines often begin in the evening or during sleep. In some people, the attacks are preceded by several hours of fatigue, depression, and sluggishness or by irritability and restlessness. Because migraine symptoms vary widely, at least half of all migraine sufferers think they have sinus or tension headaches, not migraines.

About 20% of migraines begin with one or more neurological symptoms called an aura. Visual complaints are most common. They may include halos, sparkles or flashing lights, wavy lines, and even temporary loss of vision. The aura may also produce numbness or tingling on one side of the body, especially the face or hand. Some patients develop aura symptoms without getting headaches; they often think they are having a stroke, not a migraine.

The majority of migraines develop without an aura. In typical cases, the pain is on one side of the head, often beginning around the eye and temple before spreading to the back of the head. The pain is frequently severe and is described as throbbing or pulsating. Nausea is common, and many migraine patients have a watering eye, a running nose, or congestion. If these symptoms are prominent, they may lead to a misdiagnosis of sinus headaches.

Without effective treatment, migraine attacks usually last for four to 24 hours. When you’re suffering a migraine, even four hours is far too long — and that’s why early treatment for a migraine is so important.

Migraine treatment. If you spot a migraine in its very earliest stages, you may be able to control it with nonprescription pain relievers. Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and a combination of pain medications and caffeine are all effective — if you take a full dose very early in the attack. The anti-nausea drug metoclopramide (Reglan) may enhance the activity of NSAIDs.

When prescription drugs are needed, most doctors turn to the triptans, which are available as tablets, nasal sprays, or as injections that patients can learn to give to themselves. Examples include sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and rizatriptan (Maxalt). Triptans provide complete relief within two hours for up to 70% of patients; the response is best if treatment is started early. Some patients require a second dose within 12 to 24 hours. Because the triptans can affect blood flow to the heart as well as the head, patients with cardiovascular disease should not use them. Patients who take antidepressants in the SSRI family should also avoid triptans.

Work with your doctor to find the migraine treatment that works best for you. Remember, though, that overuse can lead to rebound headaches and a vicious cycle of drugs and headaches. So, if you need treatment more than two or three times a week, consider preventive medications.

Migraine prevention. Some people can prevent migraines simply by avoiding triggers. Others do well with prompt therapy for occasional attacks. But patients who suffer frequent migraine attacks often benefit from preventive medications. Effective prescription drugs include beta blockers (such as propranolol, nadolol and atenolol), certain antidepressants (such as amitriptyline), and certain antiseizure medications (such topiramate and valproate). Difficult cases may benefit from referral to a headache specialist.

Fioricet is a medication that is being used more and more often for patients who are struggling with constant tension All kinds of Headache and migraines.

Since these types of All kinds of Headache have similar causes, they can easily be treated with the same type of medication. Before you start using this medication, though, you might be wondering exactly how and why it works on your body. Here’s some information on the main ingredients in Fioricet and what they do for your body.

Fioricet contains a combination of acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. Butalbital is in a group of drugs called barbiturates. It relaxes muscle contractions involved in a tension headache.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. It relaxes muscle contractions in blood vessels to improve blood flow.

fioricet Mechanism of action
fioricet Mechanism of action

Fioricet is used to treat tension headaches that are caused by muscle contractions.

Butalbital has generalized depressant effect on central nervous system and, in very high doses, has peripheral effects.

Butalbital Mechanism of Action
Butalbital Mechanism of Action

 

the mechanism of action of acetaminophen
the mechanism of action of acetaminophen

Acetaminophen has analgesic and antipyretic effects mediated by a metabolite which acts at cannabinoid receptors, contrary to popular belief it is not an anti-inflammatory at safe levels (it becomes toxic at doses above 1,000mg per dose and/or 3,000mg per day).

caffeine mechanism of action
caffeine mechanism of action

Caffeine is thought to produce constriction of cerebral blood vessels and serves to counteract the sedative effect of butalbital.

Butalbital has a half-life of about 35 hours. Acetaminophen has a half-life of about 1.25 to 3 hours, but may be increased by liver damage and after an overdose. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 to 7 hours. Butalbital is a barbiturate that slows certain central nervous system (CNS) processes via its interaction with brain receptors for the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.

Acetaminophen is one of the main ingredients in this medication. It is a blood thinner that is often used as an over the counter pain reliever and fever reducer. Chances are likely that if you’ve struggled with All kinds of Headache for a while, you may have already tried taking acetaminophen under different brand names to reduce your pain. Chances are likely that it didn’t work for the worst of your All kinds of Headache. The reason that it works in Fioricet, though, is that it’s combined with two other ingredients: Butalbital and caffeine.

Butalbital is a barbiturate, a powerful medication used to relax the muscles and ease tension. This medication can make some people sleepy, so you should be careful about using Fioricet when you’re driving or operating heavy machinery. Many times tension All kinds of Headache and migraines are caused by the tension in neck and shoulder muscles. Since Butalbital helps ease this tension, it can get rid of one of the underlying causes for such All kinds of Headache.

Many people are surprised to learn that caffeine is a major active ingredient in Fioricet. This substance, though, actually can increase blood flow and help the nervous system function more smoothly. For this reason, it helps the body loosen up and can also ensure that the other two active ingredients are delivered to the proper spots in the body more quickly through the fast-flowing blood stream.

Before you purchase Fioricet from a pharmacy, you might want to check out the different options for ordering this effective headache and tension medication.

You can actually get better prices by purchasing it online. Plus, ordering them online is excellent because you can conveniently get your medications delivered right to your door. The discretion and ease involved in purchasing your pain relieving medication this way is unparalleled by what any regular pharmacy can offer. Before you decide to purchase your Fioricet, make sure you research other purchasing options that might save you time and money.

 

Downsides of Taking Fiorinal or Fioricet for Headaches

People who suffer from tension-type headaches that do not respond to over-the-counter (OTC) medications may find relief with combination drugs that include butalbital.

Commonly prescribed as Fioricet (butalbital/acetaminophen/caffeine) or Fiorinal (butalbital/aspirin/caffeine), butalbital is a sedative in the barbiturate class of medicines. Although the drug causes intense relaxation and eases the pain of a tension headache, it is not without risks.

The most common type of headache disorder, a tension headache occurs when neck and scalp muscles become tense, or contract, meaning they squeeze down. This causes pain, often described as a rubber-band-around-the-head feeling or a pressure sensation, on both sides of the head.

Tension headaches can be triggered by a number of factors including stress, hunger, lack of sleep, anxiety, and temperature changes. They may occur at any age but are most common in adults and older teens. Some people are more prone or vulnerable to developing tension headaches than others, although the reason behind this is not very clear.

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 can be effective like physical therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.1

Butalbital

When recurring tension headaches do not respond to other treatments, your doctor may prescribe Fiorinal or Fioricet. Codeine may also be added to this combination of medicine. While this medication is very effective in the short-term, there are some things to watch out for.

Butalbital is a barbiturate, which means that it helps to slow down the central nervous system and relax the muscle tension believed to be associated with tension headaches.

Before taking medication containing butalbital, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are allergic to any ingredients in the medication, such as acetaminophen or aspirin.
  • Are currently taking blood thinners, antidepressants, antihistamines, or other sedatives such as sleeping pills or tranquilizers
  • Have or previously had liver disease, porphyria, or depression
  • Are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are currently breastfeeding

Always take these medications as prescribed by your doctor. According to the manufacturer, the typical dose for Fioricet or Fiorinal is one to two tablets, every four to six hours as needed, not to exceed six tablets per day. These drugs should not be taken more than twice a week, as extended and repeated use of butalbital can lead to physical dependence.

  • Fioricet contains 50 milligrams (mg) butalbital, 300 mg acetaminophen, and 40 mg caffeine.2
  • Fiorinal contains 50 mg butalbital, 325 mg aspirin, and 40 mg caffeine.

     

Downsides of Taking Fioricet

If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, sedation, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or an intoxicated feeling are the most commonly reported side effects.
  • Other side effects, such as constipation, excessive sweating, itch, serious skin reactions, and mental confusion are less common.
  • Butalbital is habit-forming and there is a high risk of dependence with extended and repeated use of Fioricet. Therefore it is not considered a first-choice medicine for headaches.
  • May cause medication-overuse headache with repeated use and a withdrawal syndrome upon discontinuation.
  • The potential for liver damage with the acetaminophen component exists, even at recommended dosages. The risk is increased with higher dosages, with chronic alcohol use, with some medications, and in patients with significant liver disease.
  • May not be suitable for some people, including the elderly and people with kidney or liver disease.
  • Although Fioricet may be prescribed for migraine headaches, it is not FDA approved for this and evidence does not support its use for migraine.
  • Should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • May interact with a number of other medications including those that also cause sedation such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and sedating antihistamines. Alcohol should be avoided.

Note: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. View complete list of side effects

Side Effects of Taking Fioricet

Fioricet and Fiorinal should be taken with food or milk to prevent gastric problems. The following side effects have been reported in people taking medications containing butalbital:

      • Confusion
      • Depression
      • Drowsiness
      • Lightheadedness
      • Stomach pain
      • Upset stomach
      • Vomiting

More serious side effects may occur and could be signs of an allergy or serious complications. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:4

      • Difficulty breathing
      • Itching
      • Rash

Risks of Taking Fioricet

Butalbital-containing medications can be habit-forming and may lead to addiction and other problems. Risks of taking Fioricet and Fiorinal include:

Intoxication

Butalbital slows the central nervous system, leading to lack of coordination, problems with thinking and memory, slowness of speech, disinhibition, and emotional disturbances. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking medicines containing butalbital.

Medication Overuse Headache

A medication-overuse headache (MOH), once known as a rebound headache, drug-induced headache, or medication-misuse headache, is a chronic headache that develops as a result of prolonged and frequent use of certain medications for acute headaches. Such headaches are a common side effect of a number of classes of medications used to treat headaches.

According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, MOH is diagnosed when a person has a headache 15 or more times a day and, in the case of combination pain relievers like Fioricet and Fiorinal, has been taking the drug for 10 days a month for more than three months.

In addition, medication overuse headaches are often not responsive to preventive headache medications. This lack of response to other medications is often a clue to doctors that a medication overuse headache has developed.

Medications containing butalbital should be limited to two days per week to avoid this rebound effect.

Withdrawal

When taking butalbital, you may experience withdrawal symptoms within eight to 36 hours after the last dose. 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 Addiction

Tolerance and addiction may also occur with butalbital. Tolerance means that a person needs more of the medication to achieve headache relief. Addiction to butalbital is characterized by persistent behaviors, like compulsions, to take a butalbital-containing medication.

These behaviors impair their life in some way, negatively impacting relationships and/or everyday functioning.

Acetaminophen Overdose

Do not take Fioricet along with other medications that contain acetaminophen as it can be toxic to the liver.

 

Fioricet Provides Quick Relief for Migraines and Tension Headaches

If you suffer from chronic headaches, you are well aware of the disruption this can cause in your daily life. Trying to work or socialize while experiencing a headache can be quite difficult. Migraines can make these activities virtually impossible.

The majority of those suffering from chronic headaches report that they are unable to lead a normal life. Migraine and tension headaches disrupt their work, social, and family life.

A single debilitating headache can steal many valuable hours away from a day. After unsuccessfully trying several of the headache medications available, some chronic sufferers may simply give up. Before doing this, they might want to try Fioricet. It may just be the answer they have been seeking.

Fioricet can easily be bought online or at your local pharmacy, but you will need to obtain a prescription from a physician first. Most doctors are aware of the benefits of Fioricet and will readily provide a prescription for those suffering from migraines and tension headaches.

This combination medication is used to treat tension headaches. Acetaminophen helps to decrease the pain from the headache. Caffeine helps increase the effects of acetaminophen. Butalbital is a sedative that helps to decrease anxiety and cause sleepiness and relaxation.

The three active ingredients in Fioricet work together to relieve migraines and tension headaches. Fioricet is unique in that it includes acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine. While acetaminophen may be found in over the counter medicines, its combination with the other two ingredients is what makes Fioricet truly effective.

Butalbital is a barbiturate, which creates a sense of relaxation in the body. Caffeine further alleviates tension headaches by reducing the flow of blood to the brain. The combination of these three ingredients have provided immense relief to many chronic headache sufferers.

Fioricet comes in capsule and tablet form and is usually taken every four hours as needed. It is advised not to take more than six capsules in a day. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. If you feel that you are in need of a larger dose, consult your doctor first.

The butalbital in Fioricet tends to make people drowsy. It is important to stay away from driving or using heavy machinery after a dose. As with any medication, take care when using Fioricet. With the assistance of your physician, Fioricet can be taken safely, often with excellent results.

If you are interested in learning more about Fioricet, your doctor or pharmacist will be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Your physician will determine if Fioricet is a viable solution for your chronic headaches.

How to use Fioricet

Take this medication by mouth with or without food as directed by your doctor, usually every 4 hours as needed.

If you are using the liquid form of this medication, carefully measure the dose using a special measuring device/spoon. Do not use a household spoon because you may not get the correct dose.

The dosage is based on your medical condition, age, and response to treatment. This medication works best if it is used as the first signs of a headache occur. If you wait until the headache has worsened, the medication may not work as well.

If you suddenly stop using this medication, you may have withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea/vomiting, mental/mood changes, seizures). To help prevent withdrawal, your doctor may lower your dose slowly. Withdrawal is more likely if you have used this medication for a long time or in high doses. Tell your doctor or pharmacist right away if you have withdrawal.

Though it helps many people, this medication may sometimes cause addiction. This risk may be higher if you have a substance use disorder (such as overuse of or addiction to drugs/alcohol). Take this medication exactly as prescribed to lower the risk of addiction. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more details.

Tell your doctor if you notice increased use of this medication, a worsening of headaches, an increase in the number of headaches, the medication not working as well, or use of this medication for more than 2 headache episodes a week. Do not take more than recommended. Your doctor may need to change your medication and/or add a separate medication to prevent the headaches.