A Combination Medication is a drug which includes two or more pharmaceutical ingredients in a fixed dose.
There are three ingredients in standard Fioricet: Acetaminophen, Butalbital, and Caffeine. All three ingredients have different effects which combine to soothe headaches.
- Acetaminophen is a medication which alleviates pain and reduces fever. It’s more widely known by the brand name Tylenol. Acetaminophen works by impairing the production of the prostaglandin chemical in the brain. This chemical activates pain signals in the nervous system.
- Butalbital is a Sedative Barbiturate which stimulates the brain’s production of GABA. This neurotransmitter calms the nervous system by blocking signals among neurons. It also relaxes muscle tension in the head, thereby alleviating headaches. Butalbital is a Schedule III controlled substance in the United States.
- Caffeine is a Stimulant which raises a person’s blood pressure. While high blood pressure is not necessarily healthy, low blood pressure worsens headaches by causing blood vessels to expand and push against the brain. By raising blood pressure, Caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict and increases blood flow. This effect helps relieve headaches.
With these three ingredients at work, Fioricet can be an effective source of headache relief. However, the medication also poses risks for side effects, overdose, and addiction. For this reason, doctors usually refrain from prescribing Fioricet until safer over-the-counter medications fail to help their patients.