Forums


Medications & Prescription Treatment

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

  • By Rachelle Lynne

    Hi,

    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,

    Rachelle

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Rachelle Lynne

    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.)

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Lauren

    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. 🙂

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
    • By Rachelle Lynne

      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 🙂

      Rachelle

      Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By 1bi480g

    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.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By 1bi480g

    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.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Lauren

    I take tumeric already! That stuff is awesome! I also have an autoimmune thyroid problem, Hashimotos. Causes a lot of aches in my legs, which I really thing the imitrex has been making worse! The tumeric is amazing, really helps with achyness.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By pfitz28

    I hope you’ve already gotten this info, but in case not…
    I was dependent, although not quite as severely as you. I take 50 mg when I have a migraine. My neurologist has me do the following:
    1)take 25 mg daily for one week.
    2) take 12.5 mg daily for one week (by breaking a 25 mg in half)
    3) take 6 mg daily ofr one week (by breaking a 25 in quarters
    Obviously in the final weeks, it is pretty approximate in amount, but I just did the best I could.
    And worked – once about 8 years ago, and again earlier this year.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By MmsMom2010

    Hi Rachel!
    When it was time for detox, my daughter was able to find a neurologist who would call the infusion clinic at our local hospital. He prescribed magnesium IV, and if the pain was not gone after that, Salumedrol (a steroid) IV. For her, it was way better than going to the ER for an IV, less stressful and cheaper too. We would be able to make an appointment, get her the meds, and relax in a infusion station instead of having to go through the bright lights and noise of the ER. After a few months, she was able to resume using a triptan, but if she needs it for more than three days in a row, we go to infusion. I do not know why the direct infusion works when oral magnesium and steroids do not. I just know it saved my sanity and her high school years. Worth asking about! Hope it helps.
    Lisa

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By willmor

    I took Imitrex for 20 years before I realized it was giving me the headache I was attempting to treat. I broke the cycle and only take it once or twice a week instead of everyday. It’s tough but I took 100mg imitrex pills and cut them into 8 pieces. I took one at night before I had a headache and one in the morning. I got my self down to 25mg per day after a few days then I only started taking on piece at night before bed. I suffered for a few days and took over the counter drugs to help. Within 2 weeks I was only taking one piece every other day. After a month it was only twice a week. You cannot go cold turkey but gradually reduce the amount of sumitriptan in your blood.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
    • By Katyb

      Willmor, how on earth did you cut a 100 mg. tablet into 8 pieces??? I just started to follow your regimen and already there’s a difference! I did not, however, cut a tablet in 8 pieces! LOL! I have a pill cutter and that cut it in half so I took 50 mgs. yesterday with only a dull headache (all over, especially forehead and top of my head). I haven’t taken any pain killers. I’m trying ice, heat and walking alot outside in the cool air (I live in PA near Philadelphia). It’s going to be a long road, I know. I started on these the year they were legal in the U.S. (1993) and barely took a few a month. And, they were only 25 mg. Now, I’m just sooo sick of taking Imitrex! I don’t mind an occasional migraine that I’d have to take one to break the pain, but what I’m doing now is taking them like vitamins! It’s terrible. I’m really glad you posted because this gives me a new idea to gradually stop and not suffer with cold turkey. I can’t take the time to stay home – especially now with Christmas coming.

      To Lauren, you’re lucky you live in a state where you can treat your pain in this fashion. In PA there’s no way. It’s been legalized, but it’s a joke. They are taking baby steps to get this going and it’ll be so regulated…………… ugh! Topamax was a nightmare for me. I felt like I had a personality change and was living in la-la land. I have yet to meet anyone who can tolerate the side-effects. I stopped that last year after only 5 months of using it. Horrible stuff.

      I’d be interested to hear of anyone else’s recommendations for NOT going cold turkey off of Imitrex and analgesics and what kind of pain meds do you use to not get rebound headaches?

      Reply Created with Sketch. reply
    • By willmor

      Lol, I cut the pills with a pair of scissors. They have to be Dr. Readdy brand since they are big pills. I tried with other brands and it didn’t work.

      Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Katyb

    I am also using way too much Imitrex. Horrible rebound headaches and I get mixed messages from doctors. Some say that Imitrex will not cause rebounds – only the analgesics you use for pain will. Fioricet is a big one and Exedrin. I take approx. one to two Imitrex in a 24 hr. period (100 mg.) and have desperately tried to get off them altogether. I went to a migraine specialist neurologist and for one year we tried everything from Topamax (horrible!) , Nadolol (didn’t work) and last resort, Botox which backfired and caused a nightmare 2 months of WORSE pain. I work only parttime and can’t take FMLA, but I have taken a week off to detox and it really helped within days. Then, I had some stressful event and the migraine came back with a vengeance. Therefore, the old cycle started again! UGH! I’m so disgusted!
    I heard that Epsom salt baths are great for detoxing and tried them for a long time. I did feel better, but still got migraines. Oh, btw, I’ve had migraines since I’m 18 and am now 64. I can’t be taking this Imitrex at my age like this! My primary care doctor does know my history and that I’ve tried everything under the sun to stop taking Imitrex with this specialist. That’s why he prescribes as many as I want to help me have quality of life. Just recently, in the last several months, my migraines have ramped up in frequency and my forehead and eyes are just in pain all the time. Then, it moves to the temples, behind the ears and on top of my head. Not all at once – just moves from one spot to another. I know this is all rebound and have to get off this stuff! Anyone have some advice as to how to get through a day without grabbing the Imitrex?

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Lauren

    The most exact answer on taking too much imitrex that I was told by a neurologist/headache specialist was 4 times a month. Didn’t matter if you took 4 pills and cut them in half, that’s 8 times a month.

    I believe my migraines are hormonal, and maybe sinus related. Recently they finally figured out the weird sinus pressure, I have a deviated septum. I’m trying some medications to see if that helps and I can avoid surgery.

    On the migraine front I have been imitrex free since April of 2016. When I first started imitrex, 2013 I would take 2-3 pills a month. By April of 2016 it was 15-18 a month. The doc said “just keep taking them.” I finally said “no it never used to be like this…I had read online about rebound headaches. So I quit cold turkey. I now use cannabis for my migraines. It took 2 months to get back to completely “normal” 2-3 migraine days a month. The detox was awful. Nausea, hot and cold sweats. That lasted 2 weeks. I had tried topamax for 3 months I think. God that was awful. So maybe this made the detox worse.

    Cannabis isn’t a solution to make them go away but it makes the pain manageable. It is a solid nausea cure, gone in an instant. It definitely took experimenting, but I’ve found that indica strains work the best. The only sativa hybrid I have found to like is Harliquinn. I tried CBD strains only and they did nothing. I was told by a bud tender with migraines that they’d heard and confirmed for themselves that you need some THC with the CBD for it to work.

    Obviously the cannabis route has it’s challenges. I live in CA and we mostly travel in CA, OR, and WA to see my husband’s family. My family lives on the east coast so I just hope for no migraines and take some imitrex with me. But man, that stuff is hard on the stomach. I got so sick last time I had to use it.

    It’s the best solution I’ve found so far. No side effects. No rebound headaches. Since I’ve had such a history with rebound headaches I avoid medications with Tylenol or whatever in them. Like cold medication. I make sure to get the one that’s just the cold medication. Or sudafed.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Lauren

    PA is where I’m from! My parents still live in Greencastle. I know the laws there stink, I was looking for a friend who has anxiety problems and migraines.

    I hope you keep having success cutting down. I had all kinds of weird side effects. Heart flutters and hot and cold sweats. Felt like my body was bruised all over. My tongue would feel puffy. Plus the rebound headaches.

    Really hope you start feeling better!!

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Katyb

    Lauren – Thanks so much. I have mostly just the headaches. I have none of the other stuff, but everyone is different. I had to wean myself off of Fioricet 20 yrs. ago because I was taking so much of that, too, and the withdrawal symptoms were terrible the first 5 days. Actually, the migraines were beyond a 10 while doing that, but I only took Imitrex and Tylenol. Strangely, everything went away after that 5 day withdrawal period. Then, a few weeks later I got a real banger and took more and more Imitrex and just slid back into the old routine. This is just so unfair. Trying to be productive people and have to deal with “headaches” all the time! People don’t get that when they’ve never had a migraine.
    So, last night I took a 1/2 of my tablet for my migraine that woke me up. Those are the kind I usually get. Went back to sleep with an icepack and woke up today feeling not so foggy. I keep thinking this is going to work and I’m sticking to it! I’m still wondering how you got that tablet into 8 pieces! haha!

    Thanks Lauren!

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By GardensatNight

    Katy, I used to be able to take sumatriptan (imitrex) and have it be effective (I would take maybe 8 days per month at most) and eventually the triptans all stopped working for me. I would take one and then it would work for maybe 8 horus or 12 hours and then the migraine would roar back worse than before. I assume that’s what happens with you. Didn’t matter if I took a second dose. Always came back. This was after a decade of successful triptan use. I was very strict with myself not to go over 2-3 days of using any painkiller/triptan per week, but I still think I developed MOH. My PA pointed out that the use guideline is just an estimate. Some bodies may be more sensitive and liable to develop rebound than others.

    I had to go off painkillers/triptans completely to get out of a basically 2 month migraine where I had non-stop attacks every day. I still cannot take tripans because they do nothing. We go to the infusion center to get IV depacon/magnesium/fluids, which slowly breaks the migraine, but takes 5 days. Migraines suck for me so I REALLY try to avoid triggers. Not sure what else to do though, since triptans just don’t work. I would talk to your doctor and see if you are safe to detox without assistance since you take so many of them.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Lauren

    Katy, you said you were waking up with migraines. So you have TMJ or grind your teeth? I grind my teeth and getting a small mouth guard thing solved that. I also have TMJ but no pain so haven’t done anything about that. But you should definitely check with your dentist about teeth grinding. My mom is having a ton of teeth problems because she grinds them and it’s never been addressed.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
    • By Katyb

      Lauren – I have had TMJ my entire life and have a custom bite guard to wear at night when it flares. Last time was 3 years ago. I have no problems now. I wake up with migraines probably because of MOH. I have cut waaay back on the Imitrex and I hardly have any problems now. No detox – just a tapering and cutting out all pain meds that I used for migraines except for maybe one a day and it’s working great.

      I, too, had the grinding of my teeth at night as my dentist told me so I went back to using night guard for a bit. It’s ok now.

      Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Elphi7

    Hey Rachelle Lynne – how are you doing now? did you get off the sumatriptan? I am in the same boat and going to be either quitting or tapering. I also live in BC! so am very curious to hear if you got help from the Stay at Home detox program? I really hope you got through this okay. Would love to hear. Thanks! Deb

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Elphi7

    So interesting to hear about everyone’s tapering experiences with imitrex. I’ve tried it but end up with a brutal rebound headache when I get down to 25mg – but I think it’s better to taper than to go cold turkey. After Christmas, I am going to just take a week and suffer through because I have to get off these things. Ugh. Thanks for the stories here though.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Katyb

    Elphi7 – I was told for years that it was the Fioricet I was taking WITH the Imitrex that was the main culprit. Then, a pharmacist told me that Imitrex DOES cause rebounds. I was surprised and it finally clicked with me that it was both. So, I did suffer with horrible headaches and took a few days off of work. Then, it got better. Of course, I’m going to take an Imitrex if I get another bad migraine. I just won’t take 100 mg. – I’ll take 50 mg. and a Fioricet.

    I’m sure you’ll feel better after a taper vs. cold turkey. But, everyone’s migraines are from different reasons. I know my triggers and hormones are not an issue at my age.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply
  • By Elphi7

    Thanks Katyb 🙂 I’m getting more familiar with my triggers and I think once through the rebound will be able to tell better what they are. Caffeine for sure, overtired, heat, change in weather, not eating. Not sure about what other foods so will also do a limited diet then experiment with adding different food back in. Am through menopause as well – thankful for small mercies! I haven’t used Firoicet – have some research to do on other possible helps. Thank again.

    Reply Created with Sketch. reply