It’s a double-edged sword- taking prescribed painkillers for migraines. On the one hand, migraine headaches are so excruciating and energy draining, you’ll take almost anything to make the throbbing headaches and nausea go away. On the other hand, you might be giving yourself a rebound headache- practically penciling in the next migraine attack.
What follows is a transcription of a recent FOX News report on migraines- Neurologists See Overuse of Painkillers To Treat Headaches and Migraines:
Get a headache? Pop a pill.
It can be as simple as that. But according to some doctors, the pill popping in this country has gotten out of control. In fact, according to many neurologists who specialize in headaches, primary care physicians in some cases are actually contributing to their patients’ overuse of painkillers.
Every single day, multiple times a day, Barbara Campbell is managing her pain, or trying to prevent it. For more than 20 years, Campbell has suffered from debilitating headaches, or migraines.
“It’s really blinding if you don’t take something that’s strong enough to kill it. Sometimes, I have to turn my kids over to someone…”
They’re usually triggered by tension, and unbeknownst to her, until just recently, even the very pills she was popping to take the headaches away were actually contributing to the pain, and causing a second possibly more dangerous problem- addiction.
Dr. Maureen weighs in
Dr. Maureen A. Moriarty, at the Headache Center at Georgetown University Hospital, says migraines, which are described as moderate to severe headaches, affect 30 million Americans, mostly women. Why do Women get more Migraines than Men do? Seventy percent of the patients she sees are overusing painkillers to treat their headaches, everything from Tylenol to barbiturates, even narcotics Fiorinal, Fioricet, Oxycodone, and Oxycontin.
“It’s an epidemic- it really is a serious issue. They come not only with one problem, with a migraine case, but they also come with an angelic overuse case.”
Too busy for migraines
Barbara Campbell: “I was raising my three sons, and…you’re busy. You’re driving carpools here, running all over…the kids are breaking arms and legs.”
“These are really people in their peak performance years, and they’re really stymied by this, by the pain, and then with the analgesic overuse.” -Dr. Moriarty, Georgetown University Hospital
Pain medications- how much is too much?
“I took it in a low dose, and then after a while I took it in a higher dose. The headache would come back, so you end up taking more. And that’s the problem.”
Dr. Moriarty: “When you take a pain medication more frequently than eight days a month, or if you break that down, more than two days a week, you actually can lower the threshold.”
Are most docs ignorant of migraine illness?
The problem: Dr. Moriarty says primary care physicians don’t know any better. The painkillers can easily be called into the pharmacy, no extra screening required, and the drugs are relatively inexpensive. General practitioners have an average eight minutes to spend with a patient, and in many cases, this is a quick and easy fix.
“These are medicines that have been in the market for many, many years, so the primary care provider is really familiar with them. So they feel comfortable with them.”
Dangerous side effects of migraine meds
The problem is these drugs can eventually take a toll on your liver. As drying agents, they’re known to cause dental problems. They can cause fatigue and even changes in your hormonal cycle.
Dr. Moriarty says they can ultimately destroy lives. “Not only does it medically create havoc, but emotionally and socially.”
If she did it, so can you…
Barbara Campbell: “I had to go somewhere and just stop taking them altogether.”
Just this year, after more than 20 years on painkillers, Barbara Campbell checked herself into the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute.
“You take all your medicine up to Michigan, and hand it over to them, happily, and then you’re in an inpatient hospital there.”
After a couple of weeks, Barbara came home, no longer dependent on painkillers, and on a new regimen that was actually helping her pain.
Does she blame her doctors for providing the meds she ultimately became dependent upon? No- she blames herself.
“I just didn’t take the time to slow down and really look at how much medicine I was taking. I was trying to just meet the needs that I had at the time, and I really dragged this out too long. I should have stopped it.”
There are only 300 neurologists in the US with a specialty in headaches, so you do have to be your own best advocate, read up about the disorder, and make a list of questions to take in to your primary care physician.
Natural migraine nutrients
Some alternative ingredients that may help improve your body’s response to inflammation include magnesium, butterbur, and riboflavin, taken together in one supplement.