Butalbital is a medication within the drug classification known as barbiturates. It is taken orally to treat a variety of mild to moderate conditions.
Barbiturates act primarily on the central nervous system (CNS) and have an intermediate duration of action compared to common over-the-counter medications.
Butalbital is most commonly combined with acetaminophen and caffeine to achieve the most desirable effects.
If you miss a dose of Butalbital, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not double dose.
Butalbital is best stored at room temperature away from moisture and heat. For more drug information on Butalbital, check the packaging of the product.
Butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine is a combination drug available in tablet, capsule, and solution form.
Acetaminophen is a commonly used pain reliever and fever reducer, and caffeine is a stimulant that increases the effect of pain relievers.
Both butalbital and caffeine use can lead to low, moderate, or high physical dependence, though caffeine withdrawal is typically a milder and less serious issue. Acetaminophen is not a habit-forming substance, but it can have serious effects, such as liver damage, when taken in high doses.
The combination drug butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine are only available with a doctor’s prescription.
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Butalbital is used primarily in treating tension headaches, also known as stress headaches. These are classified as attacks that:
Butalbital should not be used for the treatment of migraine headaches. It is a prescription drug that should only be used on the professional medical advice of a licensed healthcare provider.
Though used mainly for treating headaches, butalbital can also be used as a sedative to treat anxiety, seizures, and, in some cases, insomnia.
There are several common and infrequent side effects of butalbital, including:
Rare side effects of butalbital include:
Butalbital in breastmilk can also cause poor feeding and vomiting in infants. If you are breast-feeding, it is best to avoid using Butalbital.
Butalbital has a high potential for addiction and physical dependence on the drug. Tolerance to this medication, as well as other barbiturates, can occur in a relatively short time span, often leading to higher dosage and more potential for misuse.
Some signs of butalbital addiction include:
A person with Butalbital addiction is likely to develop a tolerance to the drug. They may be more likely to take more Butalbital or mix it with other depressants to maintain the initial high. Combining Butalbital with alcohol, for example, can heighten the risk of respiratory depression and liver failure.
Some people experiencing opioid addiction will use Butalbital to enhance the effects of whatever drug they are taking while also conserving their supply. This is dangerous because taking Butalbital with narcotics can lead to overdose or accidental death.
Symptoms of a barbiturate overdose, such as Butalbital, include:
If you suspect someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. An untreated Butalbital addiction can be life-changing or fatal.
Complications that may occur from a Butalbital overdose include:
Misusing Butalbital can lead to long-lasting effects on your health.
Long-term and consistent use of barbiturates can lead to chronic symptoms including:
Butalbital addiction is likely to cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when use is quickly stopped. Barbiturates like Butalbital can lead to psychological and physical dependence, meaning withdrawal symptoms will occur when the individual stops taking the drug.
These withdrawal symptoms generally occur within two to four days of stopping Butalbital use.
Withdrawal symptoms of Butalbital include:
If severe withdrawal symptoms go untreated or are not quickly recognized, then the following may occur:
Detoxification, or detox, is the procedure of clearing the body of harmful substances. Medically supervised detox can involve administering other drugs, like opioids, in small quantities to aid with the uncomfortable effects of withdrawal symptoms. Common opioids used for detoxification include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.
You must never try to detox alone. Detox is safe and effective in a medical environment where doctors and nurses can assess dosage and progress. Withdrawal symptoms can be painful, uncomfortable, and potentially life-threatening, so professional aid is necessary.
Behavioral treatments are often necessary to change the patient’s mindset and avoid relapse for butalbital. Cognitive behavioral therapies can be done as both outpatient (from home) and inpatient (from a medical facility) treatments.
Inpatient treatment is generally more effective as the patient will have access to constant medical and professional care.
Outpatient treatment can also be problematic due to a lack of supervision and potential home factors (such as social environment) that may have contributed to butalbital abuse in the first place.
Common questions associated with Butalbital use and addiction:
Butalbital is a barbiturate drug, which is a class of CNS depressants. This class of medication acts on the central nervous system as a depressant. They are effective as anticonvulsants, but they also carry habit-forming potential. Benzodiazepines have replaced barbiturates in recent years for several types of treatment.
Fioricet is not the same as butalbital, but it does contain this barbiturate compound. Fioricet is a brand-name drug containing butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine in one oral tablet or capsule. This medication is very similar to esgic, fiorinal, orbivan, repan, margesic, phrenilin, and phenobarbital, all of which contain butalbital and some form of pain reliever.
Though it is used primarily to treat tension headaches, butalbital can also be prescribed to treat anxiety. This was once used as a common medication to treat this condition, but it has become less prescribed in favor of benzodiazepines, which are more widely used today.
In addition to those listed above, possible adverse effects of the combination drug of acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine include:
You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Butalbital, Acetaminophen, Caffeine, and Codeine Phosphate Capsules for Oral Use.” FDA. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/020232s041lbl.pdf
National Library of Medicine. “Butalbital.” NLM. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Butalbital
National Institute of Health. “Harmful Drug Interactions.” NIH https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Harmful_Interactions.pdf
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “2013–2014 National Roadside Study of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers.” NHTSA https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/13013-nrs_drug_092917_v6_tag.pdf
Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Butalbital. [Updated 2019 Jun 30]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/books/NBK501481/
Silberstein, S D, and D C McCrory. “Butalbital in the treatment of headache: history, pharmacology, and efficacy.” Headache vol. 41,10 (2001): 953-67. doi:10.1046/j.1526-4610.2001.01189.x, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11903523/