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The bulk of this information comes from Health By Principle’s consultant scientist Dr. Angela Stanton who has done groundbreaking research on migraine.

Migraine Medication Overuse Linked to Permanent Brain Damage

Patients who overuse analgesics, triptans or other acute headache medications and suffer from chronic daily headaches are thought to suffer from medication-overuse headaches or MOH.  

A recent study suggests that medication overuse is the cause of migraines transitioning from periodic to chronic. However, the major question remains: Why are only two-thirds of patients with chronic migraine-like headaches who overuse pain medications improving after detoxification and the remaining one-third continuing to have chronic headaches?  

The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, used a longitudinal MRI study with voxel-based morphometry, a type of brain scan, to research how gray matter changes in relation to medication withdrawal in humans with MOH.  

Researchers found that patients who showed a significant improvement in their symptoms after detoxification had a decrease in gray matter in a part of the brain called the midbrain, which is involved in pain regulation.  

Patients who did not show improvement did not have this decrease in gray matter. Additionally, patients who did not respond to treatment had less gray matter in a different part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex.  

The researchers suggest that these changes in the brain may reflect how the brain adapts to chronic pain and pain medication, and that decreased gray matter in the orbitofrontal cortex may be a predictor of poor response to treatment. 

“Decrease of Gray Matter Volume in the Midbrain is Associated with Treatment Response in Medication-Overuse Headache: Possible Influence of Orbitofrontal Cortex” Franz Riederer1, Andreas R. Gantenbein1, Marvin Marti1, Roger Luechinger2, Spyridon Kollias3, and Peter S. Sándor1,4 The Journal of Neuroscience, 25 September 2013, 33(39): 15343-15349; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3804-12.2013 

Aimovig™: Much Risk, Not Much Reward

Currently being sold as a miracle cure for migraines, our research scientist discusses Aimovig side effects and how it doesn’t much help with decreasing the severity or frequency of migraines, even in best case scenarios. 

As Dr. Stanton explains: It's no magic bullet for migraines, plus it can do permanent damage to your brain.

Over-the-counter (OTC) Pain Medications 

Just because they're accessible doesn't mean they're safe.

While commonly used to alleviate pain and discomfort, particularly for those who suffer chronic pain like migraines, overuse of OTC pain medication can be dangerous, and even life-threatening.  

The range of negative health effects from overusing OTC pain medication include: 

  1. Liver damage: Many OTC pain relievers contain acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage if taken in substantial amounts or over an extended period. According to the FDA, taking more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen can lead to liver damage or even liver failure
  2. Stomach problems: OTC pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate the stomach lining and lead to gastrointestinal problems like stomach ulcers, bleeding, and perforation. Taking these medications on an empty stomach or with alcohol can increase the risk of stomach problems. 
  3. Kidney damage: Overusing OTC pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen can also damage the kidneys. These medications can reduce blood flow to the kidneys, leading to kidney damage or even kidney failure over time. 
  4. Increased risk of heart attack and stroke: Some OTC pain relievers, like ibuprofen and naproxen, are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, especially in those with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions. 
  5. Increased risk of overdose: OTC pain medications, especially cough medications containing codeine, can be addictive and lead to overdose. Even non-opioid pain medications like acetaminophen can cause overdose if taken in excessive amounts. 

Overusing OTC pain medications, particularly for long periods of time as in the case of chronic migraine pain alleviation, can lead to a range of negative health effects. It's essential to use these medications responsibly. Also, overuse of OTC pain medications can increase the frequency of your migraines.  


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