Review Article

CNS Drugs

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 995-1004

First online:

Medication Overuse Headache

Awareness, Detection and Treatment
  • Alan M. RapoportAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLAThe New England Center for Headache Email author 

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Episodic migraine is a disabling painful disease that can affect the normal function of daily routine activities such as performance at work and school, and home and social relationships. In addition to the physical disability during migraine, between attacks many patients experience a condition referred to as interictal burden, which can present as pre-event worry about future attacks and can result in the anticipatory use and/or overuse of acute care medications. The overuse of medication can often lead to medication overuse headaches (MOHs) and chronic migraine. Unfortunately, patients, and even some physicians, are often unaware of this phenomenon. Therefore, it is important for knowledgeable physicians to raise awareness and to address the risks of medication overuse with their patients through effective communication. Future management of medication overuse should include detoxification and a comprehensive programme that includes the use of preventive medications such as sodium valproate (divalproex sodium) and topiramate in order to reduce dependency on acute care medication. Also, MOHs may be most effectively managed with the initiation of preventive treatment prior to detoxification, in addition to the decreased use of acute care medication. A long-term treatment plan, including behavioural therapy, migraine preventive medication and appropriate acute care therapy, may be optimal in treating patients with MOHs.