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Detoxing - Imitrex and OTC Medication: Rebound and Medication Overuse Headache


My name is Rachelle and I am addicted to Sumatriptan (Imitrex), Advil, Tylenol, and Tylenol with Codeine (T1.)

I was first prescribed Imitrex when I was 21 years old. I will be 25 this July and I can say without a doubt that I am physically dependent on it. The worst part of being physically dependent on Imitrex is that it's efficacy lessens as your tolerance increases. It's like burning the candle at both ends.

Actually, the worst part about being physically addicted to Imitrex is the rebound headaches, the constant medication overuse headache. Or, as I like to call it, the "background headache." This constant dull but piercing pain is a type of torture. No, I may not have a full blown migraine all the time, but I do ALWAYS have this background headache. It feels like a mixture of a tension headache and sinus headache. Sometimes I swear I can smell my own brain; the effects of chemicals being constantly pumped into my body. It's a vicious cycle many of us know all too well. Get a migraine, pop a pill. Get another migraine, pop more pills, and so on and so on. Before you know it, you get headaches from the very pills that were supposed to be helping you in the first place, and the only way to make those rebound headaches go away is by, YOU GUESSED IT - popping more pills.

Today was the day. I called the nurse hotline number in my Province and asked for help with detoxing. The nurse I spoke to referred me to the Drug and Alcohol hotline. I called this number and the lady I spoke to there suggested I call my local Rehabilitation Centre as they offer a "Stay at Home" detox program. This program is free, and runs for 7 days. For each of those 7 days a Registered Nurse comes to my home to check up on me. I have yet to receive more information as the rehab centre detox line is not open on weekends, however, I would like to give this detox program a shot. I would of course take the week off of work.

Has anyone else ever detoxed off of a triptan and OTC medication cold turkey and all at once? I doubt the rehab centre will have much knowledge in regards to triptan dependence. Any insight would be helpful. I have not been able to find much for literature on triptan detox, or even OTC pain medication detox for that matter.

Thanks a lot,


  1. I should mention that I take an Imitrex, (50mg or 100mg) almost everyday just to make it through my work day. Sometimes I will take two or three Imitrex if I have a full blown migraine. And I take up to 5 extra strength Tylenol with or without codeine and/or up to 5 extra strength Advil everyday. Some days I take nothing (which is rare.)

    1. Rachelle,
      I hope you're feeling better. I too have the same problem with the imitrex. I started with migraines in my early 20's around my cycle. I think they started after I went on the pill. And they've never stopped. I'm 30 now. In July 2013, I went to the doctor asking about imitrex. I have an Aunt who has the same problem with migraines around her cycle. I started out just using it 3-4 times during my period. Over the next year it snowballed, I believe it happened with rebound headaches. NOBODY warned me about them. I went to the doctor that prescribed it, a family doctor, and said I think I'm taking too many (15, sometimes 18 pills) a month. I went in a couple times, saying this. She insisted it was fine.

      In October of 2014 I switched doctors, she said I was taking too much. Told me to chop the 100 mg imitrex in half and take half of a 500 mg naproxen with it. I should also say at this point the imitrex wasn't working as well as it used to. Obviously, was taking too many of the stupid things.

      In March of this year I'd had enough, went to a neurologist. She started me on Topamax, a pretty scary medication, I didn't realize it at first. Today is day one of detox I guess. I was only on the Topamax for 6 weeks, but guess what going off it causes?! Lovely rebound headaches. It's such nonsense! All these medications are supposed to help us and they've just made us worse!

      So I don't know where you live, I live in CA. Saturday I have an appointment to see a medical marijuana doctor. I need to find something to use for help with the migraines. My husband uses it for other issues. I've read a lot on the internet talking about how it helps with migraines. CBD is another compound that supposed to be responsible for pain relief and not get you stoned. So at any rate, I hope you're feeling better.

      If you want a buddy, I can help! I've got 3 cats and a 10 year old. Today has been pretty rough. The cats make it better though. 😀

      1. Hi Lauren and 1bi480g!

        I'd love to have you as a buddy Lauren! And thank you for your replies. Unlike your doctor Lauren, mine WAS very serious about the adverse effects of abusing Imitrex. Every time I go to her for a refill (she gives me probably 100 pills at one time) she always tells me, "remember the more you take the more you will need to take and you may start to develop medication overuse headaches - be careful and don't take more than 12 per month." So I was aware of the consequences, however, I did not take her advice as I should have.

        I should have mentioned in my original post that alcohol is a major trigger for me. I found myself "premedicating" by taking an Imitrex and a handful of Advil and Tylenol before drinking just so I could TRY to enjoy a few drinks with my family. This became a dangerous habit. On top of my premedicating, I would find myself taking even more meds the next morning anyway - even if I only had a couple of drinks! And so my dependence grew and grew.

        Topomax is terrifying to me and I will not take it. I've heard too many horror stories. I have taken Amitriptyline as well as Propranolol as preventative medication, but both did nothing. Amitriptyline did make me feel very tired and gave me dry mouth though 😀

        I live in British Columbia, Canada, so although marijuana is not legalized, medical marijuana is available. I hear over and over again from people, "You need to smoke a joint! It will totally help with your migraines." The thing is, even if the stuff didn't make me a paranoid freak paralyzed in fear, I hate smoking it. I hate eating it. I hate being high from weed; it makes me ill, so I really appreciate your CBD suggestion. (I haven't touched the stuff in 7 years.) I've been thinking of looking into some sort of edible or compound that wont make me stoned. If Botox doesn't fair well I will seriously look into some sort of cannabinoid. I get my first round of Botox injections on Monday, May 9th. It is my hope that it will lessen the frequency of my migraines so that I don't have to pop an Imitrex every other day! Side note: I have been waiting to see a neurologist in my city for almost a year (insane wait list) - I have an appointment July 4, 2016.

        As far as my detox goes, I am 8 days Imitrex, Advil, and Tylenol free! I had two really bad days laid up in bed with a puke bucket, but the other 6 days were tolerable. Thank goodness my boss let me take the week off work! No pets or children for me. Maybe one day!

        Thank you for all of your suggestions and support. I will definitely be purchasing some Epsom salts today too 😀


    2. Hi Rachelle, I also went through a MOH detox last year after firing a neurologist who had me taking 2-4 Relpax and 2-4 metoclopramide and 4-12 Advil A DAY. I went cold turkey on the Advil and metoclopramide and limited the Relpax to 2x a week but I also went on FMLA because I was having a migraine every 2 hours and couldn't function at work, and spent much of the next six weeks in bed. If you don't think you could go on FMLA or leave at this time I would maybe stop the NSAIDs and try turmeric which is supposed to be like a "natural advil" and then slowly wean off the rest at a doctor-recommended schedule? My favorite is youtheory brand from Costco, other ones tend to upset my stomach.

      1. Oh, and I took 1-2 epsom salt baths a day - not only did it feel good and the Mg is supposed to help some with headaches, but the osmosis might help with the detox as well.

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