Migraine Medication Pros and Cons: the Basics

Published on: Modified on:
Certain migraine medications can help to relieve migraine headaches, prevent migraine attacks, or nip them in the bud. Before starting a new migraine medication plan, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.
Migraine Medication Pros and Cons: the Basics- Migravent

While there are no medications formulated exclusively for migraine headaches, many patients have successfully decreased migraine attack incidents through the use of various drugs intended for the treatment of other illnesses, such as heart disease, epilepsy, and depression.

However, there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing migraines, save for the fact that some migraine medications may cause harmful side effects which exacerbate symptoms such as painful headache, nausea, and constant fatigue, in addition to posing severe health risks.

Related: Over-the-Counter Migraine Drugs- What are the Risks?

Listed are some of the most popular migraine prophylaxis and pain relief treatments, including their risks and benefits.

OTC migraine pain medications

Example: Tylenol, Advil, Excedrin, aspirin, and naproxen.

Pros: Inexpensive, readily available without prescription, widely accepted.

Cons: Overuse may cause rebound migraine headaches, in addition to damaging the stomach, esophagus, and liver.

Tips: Take with food, use as instructed, and track dosage in migraine diary.

Narcotic pain drugs for migraine

Example: NSAIDs combined with codeine, opioids.

Pros: May provide strong migraine relief where other attempts to treat migraine headaches have failed.

Cons: High risk for overdose, drug dependency, rebound headache, dizziness, and intense drowsiness.

Tips: Use as instructed by physician, resist taking extra doses.


Example: Cafergot, DHE.
Pros: For migraine patients suffering from nausea, ergots may be taken as a nasal spray.

Cons: Side effects such as nausea and dizziness, and may not be taken if you suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure; also, not the most effective medication for migraines.

Tips: Do not take if you experience hypertension or have a history of heart disease.


Example: Sumatriptan, rizatriptan, zolmitriptan.

Pros: High success rate, and may be taken as pill, injection, or nasal spray.

Cons: Potentially hazardous when combined with medications for depression, heart disease, or hypertension.

Tips: Consult your migraine doctor if you currently take medicine for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or depression.

Calcium channel blockers

Example: Verapamil, amlodipine, diltiazem.

Pros: Safe for migraine sufferers with high blood pressure.

Cons: Constipation and decreased heart rate.

Tips: Migraine sufferers who have a history for cardiovascular health problems should consult their doctor before beginning calcium channel blockers as medication for migraines. Also, natural digestive aids should be taken to treat stomach pains and bloating from constipation.

Beta blockers

Example: Acebutolol, bisoprolol, atenolol.

Pros: Safe for migraine sufferers with high blood pressure.

Cons: May not be combined with medications for depression or asthma.

Tips: Migraine patients suffering from severe depression or asthma should seek alternative migraine medications.


Example: Sertraline, amitryptiline, Buspirone.

Pros: Effective for patients suffering from depression as comorbidity to migraine headaches.

Cons: Effectiveness decreases in time, and may cause fatigue, weight gain, and decreased sex drive.

Tips: Seek professional counseling and experiment with stress reduction techniques, in addition to tracking antidepressant usage with your doctor.

Anti-epileptic medications for migraine

Example: Topamax, Valproate.

Pros: Effective for treating migraine patients with epilepsy or bipolar disorder, and generally high success rate, when compared with other prescription migraine medications.

Cons: Risk for birth defects if taken during pregnancy, plus long-term side effects such as memory loss, fatigue, “brain fog,” and dizziness.

Tips: If taking Topamax for migraines, tell your doctor if you experience side effects such as vertigo, forgetfulness, or constant tiredness that don’t occur with migraine attacks.

Related: Migraines and Epilepsy: 10 Quick Migralepsy Facts

Natural migraine medications

Example: butterbur, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, riboflavin.

Pros: Effectively target migraine triggers and underlying health issues that cause headaches, as opposed to merely treating the symptoms; may be taken safely by most individuals of any age, without the risk for harmful side effects.

Cons: Magnesium sometimes causes constipation. Health benefits from natural supplements for migraines are rarely instant, and may require some time before any change in migraine severity or frequency is noticed.

Tips: Consult your doctor before starting any new migraine treatment, including natural supplements for migraines. Track improvements by using a migraine diary.

Please tell us…

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

Share with your friends!

If you found this article helpful, then please share with your friends, family, and coworkers by email, Facebook, or Google+.

Like this? Read more:

10 Deadly Migraine Drug-Grapefruit Interactions: Expanded List

Top 25 Natural Migraine Treatments: Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs

Image(s) courtesy of akeeris/FreeDigitalPhotos.net