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What’s a medication-abuse headache?

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD
General Practitioner

If you are suffering from medication-induced headaches, you will want to gradually reduce the amount of medication you take over time. Watch me explain how to wean off these medications safely. 

These headaches are also known as medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches. They occur when the medications used to treat random headaches (both migraine and tension type) are used in excess. The medications which can cause the overuse headaches are typically analgesics sold over the counter, but may include any type of pain prescription medication. The reason why they cause the headache is that they are not supposed to be taken daily or even every other day, and when the medication builds up in your body to toxic levels it may lead to more headaches. It is a common cause of daily headaches.
Debra Fulghum Bruce PhD
Healthcare Specialist
If your headaches are becoming more frequent, ask your doctor about medication-abuse headaches. Patients with tension-type headaches or migraines who use pain relievers frequently may actually be worsening the problem. Taking analgesics, opioids, or other pain-relieving medications daily or several times a week can potentially make your headache pain less responsive to preventive medicines, causing an episodic headache to become a chronic daily headache. Try to incorporate other alternative therapies along with the medication to reduce your dependence.If your headaches are becoming more frequent, ask your doctor about medication-abuse headaches. Patients with tension-type headaches or migraines who use pain relievers frequently may actually be worsening the problem. Taking analgesics, opioids, or other pain-relieving medications daily or several times a week can potentially make your headache pain less responsive to preventive medicines, causing an episodic headache to become a chronic daily headache. Try to incorporate other alternative therapies along with the medication to reduce your dependence.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.