Migraine is a complex brain condition that affects nearly 1 billion people globally. Migraine is more than a strong headache. It can cause debilitating effects that can linger for days and disrupt daily life.

Fortunately, today there are many treatments to relieve migraine symptoms. Medications are one tool along with other support options to provide relief.

Fioricet is a combination medication that has been around for many years and is approved to treat symptoms of tension headaches. While it’s sometimes used for migraine, there are better choices available.

In this article, we’ll discuss the uses, side effects, and other important information you need to know about Fioricet.

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Fioricet is the brand name multi-ingredient medication that’s used to treat some types of headaches. It’s also available in generic form.

Fioricet contains:

  • butalbital 50mg
  • acetaminophen 300mg
  • caffeine 40mg

It’s FDA-approved to treat symptoms of a common type of headache known as tension headache but is also prescribed off-label for migraine.

Fioricet is an older medication that used to frequently be prescribed to treat migraine symptoms. However, there is not enough evidence that shows it’s effective for migraine attacks, especially when compared to safer products.

Although Fioricet has been used for many years for migraine, it’s not approved for this use, and there are greater risks than benefits with this medication.

Fioricet may be an option if other migraine treatment options have not worked. Your doctor will just want to monitor you closely to avoid side effects.

It’s prescribed to help relieve immediate headache symptoms, but not to prevent migraine attacks.

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Fioricet contains three different active ingredients which work together on tension headaches. The exact way Fioricet works to help relieve tension headache is not clear.

Butalbital is a barbiturate that helps with relaxation and anxiety, acetaminophen works as an analgesic for pain relief, and caffeine also helps with pain relief.

Fioricet is available as a capsule you take by mouth. The recommended dose is 1-2 capsules every 4 hours. Do not take more than 6 capsules in a 24-hour period.

Fioricet can cause an upset stomach, so taking it with food or milk may help.

Ask your pharmacist for information on the best way to take Fioricet.

Share your medical history with your doctor and ask if Fioricet is safe for you to take. Fioricet can cause some serious side effects, including:

  • confusion
  • seizure
  • depression
  • drowsiness, dizziness
  • feeling intoxicated
  • stomach pain
  • dry mouth
  • heartburn
  • fast heart rate
  • muscle pain
  • rash, itching
  • vomiting

If you experience a severe or life-threatening reaction to Fioricet, call 911 right away.

Fioricet can also interact with different medications, including:

This is not a full list of all the side effects and interactions of Fioricet. Ask your pharmacist for a complete list.

Fioricet has several risks and may not be suitable for everyone.

The active ingredient butalbital in Fioricet may be habit-forming. Using higher doses for a long time may lead to dependence on Fioricet. Suddenly stopping the medication after regular use may also cause withdrawal symptoms.

Drinking alcohol or taking other sedative medications with Fioricet may be harmful and cause dangerous side effects. Butalbital takes a long time to clear from your body.

Do not take Fioricet with other products that have the same active ingredients. Taking too much of these ingredients together can increase the risk of overdose, cause liver or kidney damage, and may be life-threatening.

Talk with your doctor about any medications and over-the-counter products you’re taking, including vitamins, herbs, and natural supplements.

Some examples include:

  • acetaminophen (Tylenol, multi-symptom cough/cold products)
  • caffeine (energy drinks, Excedrin migraine, caffeine pills)
  • butalbital (barbiturates)

Taking Fioricet regularly can increase your risk for rebound headaches or medication overuse headaches. The American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study found use of butalbital for 5 days per month would increase the risk of acute migraine becoming chronic migraine.

Fioricet can raise blood pressure and heart rate, if you have a history of high blood pressure or heart related conditions, ask your doctor about the risks of Fioricet.

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Fioricet. Always take the medication exactly as your doctor has prescribed. Taking too much Fioricet can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

If you think you’ve taken too much Fioricet, call 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to an emergency room to get help right away.

Some symptoms of overdose may include:

  • drowsiness, dizziness
  • nausea, vomiting
  • confusion
  • slow breathing
  • coma
  • extreme drowsiness
  • drop in body temperature
  • trouble with coordination and balance

Avoid Fioricet if you are allergic to any of the ingredients of the medication.

Symptoms of allergic reaction can include:

  • rash
  • itching
  • swelling
  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing

In some people, acetaminophen in Fioricet can cause severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. Let your doctor know if you’ve ever had a reaction to acetaminophen in the past.

Do not take more than 4000mg of acetaminophen in a day, as this can cause liver damage. Get medical help right away if you took more than 4000mg of acetaminophen.

If you have liver problems, Fioricet may not be suitable for you. Talk with your doctor about your medical history.

Suddenly stopping Fioricet after taking high doses for a long time can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • depression, restlessness
  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping
  • hallucinations
  • heart problems
  • increased body temperature
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach cramps
  • seizures
when to seek emergency care

Get emergency medical help right away if you experience any of these symptoms while taking Fioricet:

  • sudden, severe headache
  • fever
  • confusion
  • stiff neck
  • seizures
  • difficulty speaking

These may be signs of a serious medical problem.

Migraine affects nearly 30 million Americans and impacts more women. Migraine can run in families.

They are also different from tension headaches, another common type of headache.

Migraine attack symptoms can sometimes include an aura, along with throbbing pain, sensitivity to light or sound, nausea, vomiting that usually affects one side of the head but can include both sides. Symptoms can last from a few hours to days, interfering with daily life.

Some possible migraine triggers may include:

  • stress
  • lack of sleep
  • hunger
  • hormonal changes
  • weather changes

Migraine is diagnosed by your doctor based on your symptoms, medical history, and other diagnostic tests like an MRI.

Prescription migraine medications fall into two categories, those that help prevent a migraine attack and those that treat acute symptoms.

There are also over-the-counter medications that can help relieve headache pain.

Since there are many migraine medications, ask your doctor about possible options for you.

Cost of medications depends if they are brand or generic, if you have insurance, what pharmacy you use, and other factors.

Comparison of other medications available

Generic nameButalbital 50mg/acetaminophen 300mg/caffeine 40mgubrogepantsumatriptanlasmiditanerenumab
Generic yesnoyesnono
*Cost (depends on brand or generic and if you have insurance coverage)generic around $10-12 for 30 capsulesexpensive without insurancegeneric around $10-20 for 9 tabletsexpensive without insuranceexpensive without insurance
Approved Usestension headachemigraine attackmigraine attackmigraine attackmigraine prevention
Side effectsdizziness, drowsiness, nausea, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, fainting, seizuresdry mouth, nausea, sleepiness, tirednesschest, neck, or jaw pain, fast heart rate, warm or cold feeling, dizziness, tiredness, skin tinglingserotonin syndrome, dizziness, numbness, tiredness, tingling, drowsiness, rebound migraineconstipation, high blood pressure, injection site reactions
How taken?oraloralnasal spray, injectable solution, nasal powderoralSelf injection pens
Is there withdrawal risk with the medication?yesnononono

Fioricet is not safe for anyone with porphyria, a skin and nervous system condition.

Taking Fioricet can make you sleepy, dizzy, or tired, and these effects can last several hours. Avoid driving or doing any tasks that require mental focus or alertness. Talk with your doctor about the risks of Fioricet and how it may affect your daily activities.

Drinking alcohol with Fioricet can increase sedating side effects. Too much alcohol with Fioricet can also increase the risk of liver damage and toxicity.

Fioricet may not be right for you if you have certain health or medical conditions.

  • history of depression, mental health conditions, suicidal thoughts
  • history of substance use disorder
  • breathing problems, such as asthma, lung disease, and emphysema
  • kidney, liver, or stomach problems
  • older age
  • pregnant or breastfeeding

Migraine can be seriously challenging for many because it disrupts daily life. Today there are many treatment options available. They include medications to prevent an attack and those that treat an acute migraine episode.

Fioricet is an older medication that has some serious risks and side effects. There are new options available which may be more effective and safer than Fioricet.

Ask 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 in a safer way.