Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Medication Abstinence

To take or not take?

That is the question regarding medication I and so many others with Migraine consider when experiencing an attack (whether acute or chronic).

Why would anyone choose to abstain from medication that does actually help?

A limited number of doses? Sure. Side effects? Of course. But also something more difficult to define.

A sense of Self Beyond Migraine and Medications.

I woke the other day with a migraine–extremely rare for me. I chose to abstain from pharmacological interventions.

I used all other tools in my therapy kit: water, salt, food, tea, cherry juice, rest, light exercise, temperature control, hot showers, light-filtering glasses, meditation, …..

And the pain persisted. The sensitivity to life persisted. Every step I took seemed to send my brain beating against the inside of my skull. Every breath brought pain-increasing scents to my nostrils. Every sound exacerbated my pain. Bending over sent searing pain coursing through my head.

Still, I refused medication.

All the medications I have cause me to sleep. I wanted to be awake–to live through the day rather than lose it to migraine only to feel well and be wide awake at 9pm. Throwing off my sleep cycle will only trigger another migraine, make chronic joint pain more difficult to manage, and worsen mental health.

I keep hoping the migraine would pass–that something other than medication would resolve the episode (despite a complete lack of prior success in this approach).

I wanted to avoid the cognitive and mood negative immediate and long term side effects of medication.

Most oddly, I wanted to just experience the migraine. Why?

To calibrate my own experience. To know what pain I can tolerate. To be this one version of me. ( One version is free of migraine, another is under the influence of medications, and one is under the influence of migraine.)

When my spouse returned from work to find me still experiencing a migraine, I was asked if I had taken medication. When I replied that I had chosen to experience this particular migraine without pharmaceutical intervention, my choice was met with support and understanding. For that I am grateful.

As hard as it can be for those who have never experienced migraine to understand the experience, it can be even more difficult to understand why one would abstain from medication therapy.

In the midst of the pain, it was therapeutic to be respected in my choice and met with compassion.

We had dinner in near silence under dim lighting. We exchanged gifts with quiet joy. We went to sleep in the shadow of migraine.

I woke the next day feeling well.

I expect some to question my choice. Yet, it is my choice, and I am glad to have made it.

I empowered myself. I proved to myself that some migraines, despite excruciating pain, can be survived. I reduced the negative impact of medications on my body. I gained data on my own experience with Migraine. I learned as I suffered. I felt more “me” than when I take medications.

I’ll certainly take prescription rescue medications for migraine again. Especially, if extreme nausea is present or if vomiting.

But sometimes, just sometimes, personally, I just have to take a break from the pills and just feel terrible. To just experience the pain for some intangible exstisential esoteric reason. It may be illogical and I may fail to explain my choice in a way all can understand, but maybe someone else out there does understand.

Thanks for reading.

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.


  • glassmind author
    1 month ago

    Well, I saw a headache specialist at a neurology clinic.

    Advised to stop one medication. Change dosing of another from as needed to daily at bedtime. Switching from oral to nasal imitrex. And to start using Cefaly. Also being sent for nerve conductivity testing to assess possible nerve impingement/damage in the cervical vertebrae. Return in three months.

    Was advised to consider botox which I am reluctant to do.

    Exhausted as traveled over night out of town for the appointment and still have appointment in town today to attend.

    Wishing all here the best day as can be.


  • AZReynolds
    2 months ago

    Yes, alcohol can trigger migraines for me as well. I’m into fighting migraines without heavy meds as long as possible too, but only because triptans make me feel like I have the flu. Having had migraines since the 1960s, I had no other choice but to survive the migraines of my childhood and teen years. But as soon as meds were offered, I started taking them! However, now I am back to fighting them the old ways…heat & ice back and forth, elbow trick, pressure points, meditation, calming music, peppermint oil, then if no luck, CBD oil and T-Relief. If nothing works up to that point, I’m usually nauseous so I take promethazine, then 1/2 oxycodone because if I haven’t broken the migraine after all my other tricks, it’s time to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Lastly I will take Relpax and then that will make me sick for up to 3 days. So old fashion is better if it works.

  • glassmind author
    2 months ago

    Promethazine is the most helpful! Thus far all docs refuse to write scripts for narcotic rescue meds (or something like tramadol) but nothing else addresses the pain. All I can do at this point is take enough other meds to make me sleep or just wait till exaustion overcomes the pain.

    Half the times I take a triptan it works. Half the time it makes the migraine worse. And always it leaves me with an emotional/cognitive hangover.

    I’m tempted to throw in the towel and just have migraine attacks.

    I see a headache specialist in a neurology clinic for the first time soon. We’ll see what she has to say.

    It’s all incredibly frustrating. The last two attacks I had were as different from each other in medication responsiveness as could be. The first cleared with meds. The second came only 23 hours later and was unresponsive.


    Thanks for sharing and reading. It’s nice to feel comraderie even if due to migraine.


    Wishing us all the best.

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    2 months ago

    @glassmind, its good to hear from you again! I go through all the things you do when having migraine attacks. I hope your appointment with a headache specialist goes well and your doctor has some new ideas. Definitely keep us posted! ~ Peggy ( team)

  • sherscure
    2 months ago

    I thought the migraine medicine side effects were too severe and opted for aspirin mega aspirin initially to ward off the vascular migraine headache but experienced all other symptoms for 3 says.
    UNTIL – accidentally discovered cure – 1 BEER. Within 15 minutes all symptoms are gone. NO SIDE EFFECTS. Try it works every time. Drink it at first sign of aura/flashy lights.

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    2 months ago

    @sherscure, we are glad you found something that helps you! ~ Peggy ( team)

  • glassmind author
    2 months ago

    Glad that works for you. Beer is a migraine trigger for me. All alcohol gives me migraines.

  • Lawrence moderator
    1 month ago

    @glassmind thank you for sharing your wonderful story, and migraine journey with us! So many of our community members often feel a high degree of anxiety when deciding whether they should or should not continue to take pharmacological interventions. When did you first start assembling your migraine therapy kit? Do you have any suggestions for others who are newly diagnosed or seeking to find a sense of self beyond migraine? Looking forward to hearing from you soon! Wishing you a pain-free day! -Lawrence ( Team)

  • Poll