The Nightmare of Medications

The Nightmare of Medications

The reality of a treatment plan for chronic migraine tends to involve a lot of medicines. This can include vitamins, preventative, abortive and nausea medications, and maybe even pain medications. As you probably know all too well, a large part of finding what helps involves much trial and error. While vitamins may be the lesser of the evils, they still add to the medication clutter and to the number of pills we take each day. The preventative medications tend to also be a daily dose of some pill that was intended for depression, seizures or blood pressure. The others fall into the medications that we use when we have an attack; the abortive, nausea medicines, anti-inflammatories, pain medicines and even over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl, caffeine, or Aleve. In this article I’ll talk about how I’ve learned to manage it all after 8 years of dealing with chronic migraine.

Organization, anyone?

Let’s face it; we all have a basket or drawer full of various medications. I personally have a basket, which I keep hidden, that contains everything. The medications I take daily are divided once a week into one of those Sunday through Saturday containers and the bottles go back into the basket. I use a make-up bag to separate the medications needed for an attack. This is done on purpose for the event that I am out of it enough that my husband is trying to fetch my medicines for me or if it is the middle of the night and I need it to be easy. This saves us from digging through all of the bottles looking for certain types of medications. If it seems like I am dying, that make-up bag is what I need!

Choosing a pharmacy and managing refills

In my experience, the choice of pharmacy has made a huge difference for me in my ability to manage my prescriptions. My insurance plan does allow for a mail order pharmacy to be used for 3-month quantity of prescriptions. I use this feature for certain medications only, such as my hormones for endometriosis, my anti-acids, and prescription anti-inflammatories. I have learned that any prescription that offers a co-pay card, such as some of the abortive medications that do not have generics, are better to be filled at a local pharmacy because the mail order pharmacies do not tend to accept those copay discount cards. Additionally, I have had better luck using a small local pharmacy in comparison to the big chain stores. Initially I was worried they would not be able to have everything I may try but if it is not a medication they carry regularly, they have it the next day. When some of the larger chains could not fill my preventative for a month, the smaller one had it on hand. Plus, it seems like the staff gets to know you better at the Mom & Pop places.

Affording medications

Being able to afford the medications your doctor prescribes can become an art in its own. When a new medication is brought up, I highly suggest asking the doctor if there is a generic or if it is a formulary brand, meaning there is no generic available yet. If there are no generics, ask the doctor about prescription copay cards. This is also something you can look up yourself on the drug website provided by the manufacturer. These copay cards can help reduce your prescription copay from $75-100 down to $10-30 in most cases. The copays can add up so fast, even if you are not on a fixed income!

Managing “old” medications

Another important element to dealing with the ever changing migraine treatment plan is handling old prescriptions once you stop taking them. From my personal experience, keeping all of the half used prescriptions around not only add to your medication clutter but can add to your feelings of frustration toward your migraine care. There is a National Drug Take-Back Day held once a year that is coordinated by local law enforcement and overseen by the DEA. For the most part it is asked that consumers do not flush prescriptions, with an exception of a few possibly fatal narcotics. If needed, prescriptions can be mixed with used coffee grounds or kitty litter and placed in your trash. Information on drug disposal and the National Drug Take-Back Day can be found online. Some local cities have drop box locations at the police station, you can definitely call and ask where any available drop bins are for your area.

Have you found any useful tips and tricks to managing your medications? What has and hasn’t worked for you?

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

Comments

View Comments (19)
  • Frosti
    4 weeks ago

    I too have suffered with migraines my entire life – remember having them at the age of 5 and my Mom always said it was a “sinus headache”. I have tried every preventive medication available – perscription, vitamins and anything else the doctor suggested. I can count the days that I do not have a headache. Doctors always thought the headaches would get better as I got older but they have only gotten worse. Have been diagnosed with 3 types of migraines….cluster headaches being the worst. I have the meds for nausea, for the pain and one doctor suggested O2. The O2 does not take the pain away, but it does seem to lessen the intensity enough that I can take the meds and perhaps sleep a little. It is the only thing that has ever made a difference for me. Old meds are taken to the fire department – they collect them twice a year. Doctor finally quit trying preventive meds and now just helps me try to control the pain when it comes.

  • nece
    1 month ago

    Made a reusable bag that hangs in a closet for collecting unused medication. When it gets full, I can take it to the police station or wait for a take back day. Either way it is in one place. I also regularly review OTC meds for expiration and add them to the bag.

  • Lee614
    5 months ago

    I put my daily prescription meds in one weekly pill box and supplements in another box. I have one drawer to keep all my prescriptions and a shelf for supplements. I use an app on my phone to help me keep up with taking my meds. I mark the calendar when it’s time for refills. I try to get all the refills at the same time and from the same pharmacy. That way, the pharmacist can inform me of possible interactions.

  • geoff
    8 months ago

    I am 68 and when I think about it my earliest recollection of being ill with headaches was when I was 8 or 10 years old, of course at that time “migraine “ wasn’t even in our diction ,and my mother ustto give me a powder in water can’t remember the name, so from that early age or maybe even before I was taking medication for head pain, which kind of expels some myths as to what is the cause of migraines in my situation obviously not everyone is the same when I say myths I mean tension, food related, environment ,etc.i am 69 now and all my life I have battled with migraines & headaches I believe that in my case there’s never going to be an answer ,and in all those years I’ve taken enough meds to kill a herd of elephants to kill off unbelievable unbearable pain .
    At this moment in time I am 6 days into stopping Topiramte and at the moment the first time in 6or7 years of taking it I feel really ill I woke up with a really bad attack with vertigo feeling sick can hardly move my head ,so I don’t know what to do apart from taking something like a codine based drug btw just one narrative to add I don’t smoke or touch alcohol I’m a vegetarian and run a lot even though I’m 69 I still believe in running as a best preventative for me

  • kimmersutphin
    5 months ago

    I am 61 had them literally my whole life. Parents told me I was hitting my head before I could say head hurts. First meds I took were BC powder in coke. Then when @ 6 doctor started coming to house to give me shots. Like you probably have taken and tried everything I could and can. I swear if the doctors had to go through this we’d get better treatment

  • bet
    11 months ago

    I don’t mine giving my meds that don’t work for me but here in my town make people pay for them. that’s not right to me its not!! But I didn’t give up looking for away to help others that need these meds so much but cant pay for them. there is a program that send meds over to MX. So I keep going through boxes of meds from my cuzin and mine to send over to MX,that truly need them and they are giving out free to everyone.Yes there is a doctor to make sure the people get the right meds. I would be more willing to help others get the meds for free cause I already paid for them even as poor as I am they are even more poor than me. so I can never even think of others give their meds to a place that makes the poor pay for them. ITS JUST NOT RIGHT!!!

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    10 months ago

    I know a lot of us have wanted to see programs like that to help others in the community who need the medications and cannot afford them. Unfortunately as far as I know there are not legal programs like that. I definitely understand your frustration with the system if you have some kind of legal program that accepts unused to distribute to the needy but then they charge for them. Hopefully this is something that can be legally changed with laws eventually because the need for it is there.
    Amanda Workman

  • MMS1956
    11 months ago

    Drug stores always take back my unused scripts and dispose of them. NEVER flush them down the toilet!
    I have tried so many medications, vitamins, Botox etc etc over the last six years I’ve lost track. The nausea and insomnia are treated with different strains of medical marijuana. Usually in the daytime I will take a tramadol or two but tend to lean towards less potent strains of the MM. Not enough doctors are up to speed on the benefits of using a natural herb and that’s a shame. Plus I think that the medical profession is way too entrenched with big pharma. I’ve gotten rid of almost all meds and my go to is MM. If you haven’t yet tried MM try it. It’s not addictive, and it’s not going to ruin your liver or kidneys! Too many medications have too many side effects.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    10 months ago

    Unfortunately MM is not legal in all states yet. But I have heard very good things about the benefits of MM for those who are able to have it. It will be a great benefit for people when more states decide to approve it.
    There are definitely disposal options available in all cities (between pharmacies and other locations) and the best option when it comes to dealing with your old medications.
    When you’re on a lot of medications it’s definitely best to make sure your doctor checks your liver and kidney function through a blood test occasionally, because of exactly what you mentioned!
    Thank you so much for sharing
    Amanda Workman

  • David
    11 months ago

    Hello. For 60+ years I have battled migraine on one level or another. Diagnosed as classic migraine with or without aura in 1980, that diagnosis a few years ago changed to chronic migraine, I continue to have 10 to 20 migraine attacks monthly.

    I want to quickly give credit to the family care doctor who in 1995 introduced my wife and me to imitrex. My wife had a once in a lifetime severe migraine attack and He gave her an injection of imitrex which seemed to fix her migraine, although it seemed risky because she had some physical reactions to the injection that were temporarily disturbing. My sister, a nurse, had told me about imitrex a few months earlier. I discussed with my primary care doctor the possibility of trying imitrex. Then a short time later, when I was suffering an intense attack which included unbearable head pain, nausea, and uncontrolled vomiting, I made my way to the doctor’s office and I was allowed to see the nurse practitioner who administered an injection of imitrex. In less than an hour I felt like dancing. Imitrex became my friend.

    My medication nightmare is this. A few years later controls were tightened on imitrex. Over a period of about 20 years I visited several neurologists, a headache clinic, and received treatment (prescriptions) from PCPs. Twice a neurologist threatened to stop giving me imitrex unless I visited a cardiologist. Twice I was put through a a battery of cardiovascular testing to prove I had no heart disease or artery disease. I did not, so I continued to get imitrex, the only thing that ever relived my migraine attacks, but in a very limited quantity that was not enough. Neurologists know nothing of treating migraine sufferers(my experience). Some PCPs give me imitrex for a year or two, then something happens –insurance company puts pressure on them or their license is threatened, or kickbacks from big pharmaceutical companies are held back. I do not know why, but no doctor will continue giving me the one little pill that gives me my life back.

    For more than 2 years I saw a neurologist who provided enough imitrex, but also managed to get me addicted to hydrocodone. She was giving me 80 10mg hydrocodone tablets every month, then threatened to stop the hydrocodone unless I submit to botox treatments. I never went back to her office. And I never got any more hydrocodone; Thank God.

    I have been threatened again, this time my PCP who for 2 years helped me has now refused. So again I am in search of a way to get imitrex. I didn’t mention all the preventive medicines, herbs, and treatments I have taken through the years. Some of them seemed to help somewhat. I still use magnesium with vitamin B2. Sorry for all the rambling. There is more to tell, but I will stop. That’s enough. Does anyone know of some new treatment that helps? I have not tried acupuncture.

    Another question, do you happen to know why imitrex is so tightly guarded and kept from a guy who has used it in order to keep functioning since 1995?

  • pigen51
    11 months ago

    I think that anyone who is a long term migraine sufferer will probably have a drawer/box of pills that they have not tossed out yet, but are also hanging onto, just in case. I know that I have a bunch of pills that I was tried on, and the side affects were either too bad, or the pills worked, and the doctor bumped the dosage up and I was stuck with a low dosage half pill bottle full, to hang on to.

    I am one of the unfortunate ones, who, until the last week, I had never experienced aura. I am 57, have had migraines my whole adult life, had multiple concussions in high school football, and several since. But also a family history of migraines. I have gone the entire route of neurologists, headache clinics, state hospitals, cat scans when the still did them, mri’s, an mra at MI state university. Many, many different drugs, pretty much the same route as all of you. The food diaries, the headache diaries, etc. Botox, pain blockers, I have tried most of it, in most combinations that we could think of. It has come down to the only thing that works for me is a strong narcotic and an anti emitic, like zofran or phenergan, and then sleep until it is gone. But of course, we all know how most of the doctors feel about using this kind of treatment for migraines. It doesn’t matter that I actually know more about migraine and it’s cause and the treatment of it than three quarters of the doctors that I see. The doctors still are not sure what causes migraines. It has gone from one idea, to a different one, back to the first, now to something else again. I understand how it is a complicated disease, but I believe that is because they are dealing with more than one disease and not just one single disease. Migraine with aura is different than migraine without aura, and basilar migraine is much different than classic migraine. And because it is so complex, when they try to approach the treatment of it in a single way, they get varied and often disappointing results. I suspect that in 20 years or so, they may start to discover this and change the way that they look at migraine, and I bet it will be due to gene mapping. Until they do find a better way of treatment for all of us, I wish you all as many pain free days as possible.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    11 months ago

    That’s exactly why we end up with the “stock pile” of old medications. All of our preventative treatments are pretty much trial and error. Even finding medications that work for aborting a migraine vary so much you have to try several in order to find one that might be effective. I know doctors are extremely hesitant about using narcotics to treat migraines.

    One of the other contributors wrote an article on that issue previously.

    https://migraine.com/living-migraine/why-wont-my-doctor-prescribe-narcotics/

    I do agree with you that we have to hope and pray that the medical community keeps moving forward and finds more options for treating us. We most definitely need them to give us some more options. Until that happens, keep your positivity and your strength. Sending you lots of love.

    Amanda Workman

  • mrst53
    11 months ago

    I have had migraines for 50 years and am on various preventives and take Frova and Fironal every other day to stop rebounds. I have eliminated stuff that cause migraines in my diet, but stress and weather changes are the main causes of my migraines. Recently had 2 trips to ER in same nite for migraine and have no idea what caused it. they used a combination of drugs, to stop the pain, but my bp was up to 249/158. They couldn’t tell if the migraine/pain caused the high bp or the high bp caused the migraine. I had no warnings and was just sitting on the couch watching tv feeling fine. going for more tests.

  • pam bitterman
    11 months ago

    After 10 years of sort of managing and eliminating identified triggers-mostly food-and trying not to take all the frighteningly rabidly prescribed medications (they all have scary and dangerous side effects and are often missing the mark anyway, are just convenient go to’s for doctors who don’t know what to do) I found Cambia, a powder that is easy to take, very gentle( no rebounds and no kidney ache) and if taken early, works amazingly well. I need to take medication far less often now, as a result.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    11 months ago

    That is actually great. The Cambia is almost like a prescription strength version of BC Powder / Goodies powder that some people may know from their childhood. Do you still have an abortive to take in the event that the Cambia is unable to completely prevent the full onset of a migraine? I’m glad you were able to try the Cambia. Not all doctors are giving people opportunities to try it out.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Amanda Workman

  • GardensatNight
    11 months ago

    I organize all my daily medications weekly and keep them in a pill organizer to take twice a day.

    My pain relief/rescue meds/nausea meds are all kept in one drawer so my husband can find them when I go into migraine-zombie mode and can’t make decisions. (Although, we do have extra bottles of nausea meds in my purse and by the bed because that’s not something you want to have to waste an extra ten seconds to go find.)

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    11 months ago

    I do the same thing with my daily medications, even for my husbands daily medications.

    Does your husband know what medications to make you take when you’re extremely sick or does he just bring you all the medications in that drawer? Aside from my imitrex injection, my husband wouldn’t know which medications I would need to take; therefore my husband brings me a make up bag that has my migraine medications in them.

    Much like you I also keep some in my purse too. Just in case. Do you just get nauseous with your migraines or do you vomit? I’m spoken with people on both sides of the fence, some who get so nauseous they wish they could just throw up so they might feel better and others who a migraine means they will spend hours throwing up.

    Thank you for reading my article and taking the time to comment.
    Amanda Workman

  • Tamara
    11 months ago

    In Canada (or at least Alberta here), all pharmacies will accept old medication and properly destroy it. I go through ALL OTC and prescription meds once a year and get rid of the old and expired ones. I do keep around all old meds for a year or two (longer if it’s just a different dose of something I’m still taking). I have kept my old tramadol I used to use for attacks and then tried the long release for daily use. I am now coming off of it and didn’t have to spend any more money on more. :).

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    11 months ago

    There is definitely nothing wrong with keeping the different doses. I know I have had that that save me some money before when it comes down to tapering off of a medication that you are currently on. I did not think about that when I was writing the article though, so thank you for mentioning that for other readers! The same thing about the OTC medications. Thank you so much for sharing your brain!
    Amanda Workman

  • Poll