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warning: medication overuse

My migraine with aura responds to prescription medication, but a few years ago I began having chronic migraines also; frequent headache without aura. So I began treating them with OTC pills; Advil or Aleve or Tylenol several times a day. When nothing helped, my neurologist said I was having “rebound headache” from “medication overuse.” He wanted to prescribe something that would wean me off so many OTCs but I decided to go it “cold turkey.” It was hard because my brain kept asking me where my OTC meds were. But after toughing it through for a few months my frequent (non aura) headaches diminished greatly, to where I now take one Fiornial at the start and that does it, instead of taking numerous OTCs in one day. Does this make sense?

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.


  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Karen and Yanihere! Thanks for the lively discussion! You can read more about MOH or Rebound Headaches at the respective links.

    Thanks for sharing, we’re glad you’re here! -All Best, Donna ( team)

  • Yamihere
    3 years ago

    Yes. But I want to warn members: Don’t get the idea that just because an analgesic – be it acetaminophen, Aleve, Advil or aspirin – is available OTC without a prescription DOES NOT mean that it’s SAFE to take it EVERY DAY, even if you adhere to dosing instructions perfectly. These meds were NEVER intended for daily use. Even the 81 mg “baby” aspirin many cardiac patients are advised to take warns that doing this without medical supervision is NOT recommended.

    Acetaminophen can kill you by sending you into liver failure. When I had been working in the hospital for just a couple of years, one of the doctors told us that the saddest case he had ever been called for was a teenage girl. She had taken a bottle of Tylenol to kill herself. The next day she changed her mind, and was rushed to the hospital. But nothing could be done for her. The pills had already been absorbed into her system. The doctors, nurses and family could only watch as she died, there was no time to get her on a liver transplant list. There is no procedure for the liver analogous to dialysis form the kidney.

    Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can damage your kidneys. Those are the Aleve, Motrin or Advil, aspirin and prescription meds such as Celebrex.


    The other problem discussed here is Medication Overuse Headache. If you take these medications frequently, you will likely experience a “rebound” headache when the medication clears your system.

    Interestingly, taking an opioid ONLY as prescribed – not more frequently or in a higher dose – is far less likely to result in a rebound headache. The Creator provided these substances in nature to alleviate pain, and there are few other substances which work as well, with so few adverse effects. The synthetic meds which mimic opioid action – such as hydrocodone mimics codeine – act on the same receptors with similar results.

    Unfortunately, the GOVERNMENT hath spoken to the physicians: we’re watching you. The small percentage of patients who have an addictive physiology or psychology are the only people who will become addicted. Patients suffering actual physical pain who follow the prescription instructions, and do not take the medication if they’re not in pain will not become addicted. But those who have become addicts plus those who doctor shopped and switched pharmacies to sell their meds on the street caused the GOVERNMENT to create FEAR among PHYSICIANS so that they are now afraid to alleviate the actual pain of patients they have known for decades.

    A patient with chronic pain, who has purposely protected the reputations of himself, his doctor and pharmacy, never using a different pharmacy or allowing another doctor to prescribe pain meds is now STUCK. His doctor is afraid to write the script. The pharmacy is afraid to fill it. The insurance company will not cover the cost. This is the scenario fueling the heroin addiction crisis in this country. The GOVERNMEMT puts its ignorant foot into the picture, with predictable results. What ALWAYS happens when the government says it is acting in the best interest of the public? EVERYTHING the GOVERNMENT gets involved in becomes FUBAR. (F’d Up Beyond All Recognition)

    The patient is characterized as an addict, his attempt to relieve unimaginable pain is called “drug seeking behavior” and he’s told to suck it up. All of this happened because GOVERNMENT drones – who may have never had a migraine, an abscessed tooth, a hangover or delivered a baby – decided, without actual data on patients with migraines or cancer or pancreatitis that MOST or at least HALF of the patients receiving pain meds were addicts.

    ER doctors tell patients to go home and take Tylenol, and alternate it with Motrin. They’re far more concerned about their job than their patients. They won’t be around when the patient has to go on dialysis or is dying from liver failure.

    Worse: Insurance cubicle workers cut your access to triptans because they’re new: they see your prescription cross their desk and say, “Jane is probably a malingerer, she’s not trying to deal with the source of her migraines.” HELLO, ARE YOU PRACTICING MEDICINE WITHOUT A LICENSE? A 22 year old decides your doctor is lazy and you’re an addict, and it’s time that someone who cared about the company’s bottom line took action. So she decided to use the company’s new policy to force you to beg your doctor to do the prior authorization paperwork for your Imitrex. You’ve been dealing with migraines since her PARENTS were in high school, but she’s focusing on her company, aiming for a raise.

    Even then, you get 12 doses per month. Of course, you get headaches 15 or more times a month. So you have no legal choice but OTC analgesics and who cares if they kill you, who wants to live with a four day “brain freeze” headache! When the rewlief wears off you get a MOH headache. And if it’s bad enough, and if you have any idea where drug dealers are (I don’t), you might do anything for just a few hours of relief.

    No wonder they won’t give you a name and their office is three states away. Doctors are not allowed to practice medicine. The drones have put the fear of THE GOVERNMENT between them and patients.

  • Karen Christine author
    3 years ago

    Thank you, Yamihere, for confirming my post on overuse of medication. Yes, those OTCs, if used too often, can cause major rebound headache.
    Karen Christine

  • Yamihere
    3 years ago

    Yes, I am a professional writer, but it’s not what pays the bills.

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