Fioricet: Migraine Remedy Medication Or Just Another Headache?

We've all had garden variety headaches from time to time. Getting sleep, drinking water, or taking aspirin or Tylenol lets you squash these "tension headaches" (as doctors call them) quickly and easily.

But if you suffer from severe or chronic tension headaches, you know that headaches can take over your work and family life. A study by the American Headache Society shows that 70% of chronic headache sufferers have significant problems with daily functioning because of the headaches.

Migraine sufferers have symptoms in addition to headache; they may spend days each month in a darkened room because the pain and light-sensitivity are unbearable otherwise.

Fioricet: A New Option

Fioricet is one of the drugs that researchers have developed to manage headaches. It has been found to be effective for tension headaches. While studies haven't shown it to be effective for migraine sufferers overall, some people with migraines seem to find it helpful as well.

Fioricet gets its effect from three different ingredients that attack different "parts" of your headache, just like a good laundry detergent has different ingredients to tackle grease, odors, and dirt.

So how does the dynamic trio work?

Fioricet has three parts, two of which may be old friends:

  • Butalbital
  • Acetominophen
  • Caffeine

Butalbital is a barbiturate; like other barbiturates, it has a relaxing effect. Butalbital will help you relax and make you feel a bit drowsy, which seems to help with tension headaches.

Acetominophen is a drug that you may recognize as the active ingredient in Tylenol. It can help with pain relief especially when combined with a relaxant.

Caffeine gives you the "buzz" that you may feel after drinking tea, coffee, or colas, or eating chocolate. Caffeine helps to reduce blood flow to the brain. Many scientists believe that "too much" blood flowing to the brain is part of what causes chronic tension headaches, so caffeine can reduce that effect.

Fioricet as part of your pain-management system

As headache sufferers, anything that might help get our lives back to normal sounds like a God-send. But there a couple of questions you should ask yourself before talking with your doctor about a prescription

Do I have migraines? If you don't know, talk about your symptoms with your doctor before deciding that Fioricet is a good fit for you.

o Is operating heavy machinery or doing a lot of driving part of my daily life? If you take a little too much Fioricet of if you're very sensitive to barbiturates, it can create the feelings and behaviors of someone who has had too much alcohol. Being "drunk" is not a good mix with operating a crane or driving carloads of kids to school, soccer practice, and the library!

o Do I need a pain-killer at least once a day? Fioricet can make you dependent on it. Dependence can lead to "rebound headaches" (headaches as the drug leaves your system) and even more serious health consequences. Your doctor might suggest using Fioricet as a "back-up" medication - to use it for the days where your regular medication doesn't work. And if you've previous experienced dependence on another drug (including alcohol), this medication is not for you.

I've Thought It Over, So What's My Next Step?

Take the prescription to your local pharmacy or on-line drug store so it's ready for your use at the sign of the first stubborn headache. Discussing any problems or side effects like dizziness or drowsiness with your doctor will help you manage this drug and can make it part of your plan for a pain-free life!a

By Ian Mason
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