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Medication Overuse and Migraines

Many people suffer from the painful problem of migraine headaches. Migraines may cause multiple symptoms including: throwing up, hypersensitivity to brightness, and, of course extreme headache. There are many kinds of treatment for relief for migraine sufferers. Prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter medications are popular treatment options.

However, people who take migraine drugs too often may actually make their headaches more severe and more frequent. These are sometimes referred to as rebound, or medication overuse headaches.

Medication Overuse and MigrainesThe Causes of Medication-Overuse Headaches

It is currently not completely understood what causes a medication overuse headache. Researchers do know that over time, migraine medicine stops working as an effective treatment and actually begins becoming harmful. For unclear reasons, your body may revolt against migraine medicine. Drugs you take to help you may actually be harming you.

Medication-Overuse Headache — Medication Triggers

There are several common prescription medications which doctors give patients to treat migraines.

  • Triptans — This class of medicine constricts blood vessels in order to reduces headache pain.
  • Pain relievers — This includes NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, and naproxen, analgesics like acetaminophen and aspirin.
  • Opioid medications — These types of medications are actually narcotics. This category includes drugs like such as codeine which are addictive.
  • Combination analgesics — These medicines typically include some combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine.
  • Ergots — These combination medicines contain both caffeine and the pain reliever ergotamine.

Any of these medications may contribute to MOH — medication-overuse headaches — when used too often.

Diagnosis of Medication-Overuse Headaches

Some healthcare professionals and doctors are not familiar enough with this problem. Unfortunately, diagnosing medication-overuse headaches can be tricky. Doctors are sometimes not able to diagnose it in patients who suffer from frequent headaches and migraines.

How to Treat Chronic Migraines Caused by the Overuse of Medication

Medication Overuse and MigrainesThe best course in the treatment of chronic migraines caused by medication-overuse headaches is to cease using the medicine. If you lower your use of these medicines you might actually prevent or reduce the occurrence of chronic migraines.

In all honesty, this will likely be a trying process. You cannot take any drugs for several weeks during this process. However, the good news is that this treatment plan has helped many migraine sufferers.

When your treatment is done, under the guidance of your doctor, there is a possibility that you can begin using pain-relief medication again.


It is important to communicate with your doctor about your headache medication use. Also, try starting a headache diary.  You should write down when you have a migraine, what drugs you take, the dosage of the drugs you take, and if a headache returns. Your doctor may use this information to identify possible triggers for your headaches.

It is important to note that there are many other options available for homeopathic and natural treatment of migraines.  These do not have the same potential side effects as drugs.  You may be interested in looking into the various health supplements on the market.

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*The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the Editor. Results may vary from person to person and cannot be guaranteed.

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