Headache Drugs Can Actually Give You a Headache
July 04, 2006
Overusing certain medications -- including those used to treat headaches -- can lead to "medication overuse headache" (MOH), and researchers have pinpointed the medications most at fault.
Upon reviewing the charts of 1,200 acute headache patients seen during 2005, 2000, 1995 and 1990, researchers from Princeton University found that diagnosis of MOH remained stable over the 15-year period. However, the drugs responsible for MOH changed dramatically:
- MOH from ergotamine overuse (used to treat migraine headaches) fell from 19 percent to 0 percent
- MOH involving triptans, a newer class of drugs, increased from 0 percent to 22 percent
- MOH due to analgesics (painkillers) increased from 8 percent to 32 percent
- Overuse headache from combinations of acute medications increased from 10 percent to 23 percent
- MOH from opioid overuse decreased slightly
Many patients overuse prescription medications, and the researchers recommended implementing public health initiatives to educate doctors and patients about setting limits on prescription and other medications, and raising awareness that overusing medications for migraine headaches can lead to MOH.