Treatment Experiences: My Attempts with Zonegran

I've lost count of all the different migraine preventive medications I've taken over the last 16 years. It is, however, quite a wide range; from Elavil to methadone, and Lithium to oxycontin.

There have been times when the frequency and severity of my migraine have been reduced, but they never go away completely. I take medication to prevent migraine attacks in conjunction with supplements and vitamins. In addition to medications and supplements, I've tried complementary therapies such as biofeedback, massage, physical therapy, aqua therapy, acupressure, yoga, cranial-sacral manipulation, and chiropractic work. I even had a two-level cervical spine fusion.

Before our family relocated to western New York State where we currently live, we spent almost 10 years living in western Massachusetts. It was during this time that I sustained a traumatic brain injury and life as I knew it would never be the same. To make a really long story short, in an attempt to figure out a way to feel better and reduce my chronic head and neck pain, I saw a variety of doctors.

One of these doctors was a compassionate and intelligent neurologist, but unfortunately not a migraine specialist. His area of expertise, as I would later find out, was brain tumors/cancer. While he worked diligently attempting to reduce my daily pain, he didn't have much experience in complicated migraine cases like mine. To give him credit, he did contact colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and around the country to see if there were other options for me. He was the first doctor to suggest biofeedback and cranial sacral manipulation, looking for almost anything to help ease my pain.

One medication we tried was Zonegran. He asked me to contact him, keeping him updated on how I was responding to the medication and if I was experiencing any unwanted side effects. I reported that my pain had not subsided and I was drowsy and a bit nauseous. He recommended that I take it at bedtime instead of in the morning to help with this and then wanted me to increase the dose in another week. After each dose increase came more sleepiness and nausea and with no significant pain reduction. Within a few weeks, per my doctor's orders, I tapered off Zonegran.

What I didn't know then was taking medication for a only few weeks wasn't going to give it enough time to work. It can take up to three months to see a reduction in the severity and frequency of migraine attacks when starting new medications. It can take just as long for any potential side effects to lessen. In addition, if there are dose adjustments during this time, the clock resets itself, so to speak. We went on to try several more medications before I finally tried methadone. When we moved to the suburbs of Buffalo, New York, I saw a new doctor and tapered off that medication. But that is a story for another time.

In 2008, after trying a variety of medications, my doctor suggested Zonegran again. I began on a low dose and again experienced the same drowsiness and nausea as before. This time, however, I knew to give this medication more than a few weeks to see if these bothersome side effects would dissipate over time... And they did.

As I reached the therapeutic dose of Zonegran, my migraines seemed to go on a temporary freeze. They didn't get worse, but they didn't get much better. I was however, becoming increasingly agitated, easily irritated and depressed. With minimal research on depression and Zonegran, it appeared that my concerns were valid.

Anticonvulsant medications can alter moods; make you cranky and more depressed among other things. I spoke with my doctor and we agreed that Zonegran wasn't the drug for me. I switched to Keppra, another antiseizure medication used for Migraine prevention. As soon as Zonegran was out of my system, my irritability, moodiness and depression went away. It was good to feel like myself again. I didn't realize how down I was until all of Zonegran was out of my system.

That's my personal experience with Zonegran, and of course, experiences can vary dramatically from person to person. How about you - what has your experience been with it? Would you like to share it with us?

The purpose of the Treatment Series is to share personal experiences with migraine management techniques. Do not start, stop or change any treatment program without the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. For clinical data and safety information, please visit our Migraine Treatment pages.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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