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Can I Use Opioid Painkillers For Headache (Migraine)?

opioids for migraine

What Is Migraine?

Migraine is a neurological disease. Pain attacks can occur with varying frequency – from 1-2 times a year to several times a month.

The main symptom of a migraine attack is a headaches, which can be very severe. Other common symptoms include nausea and vomiting and light and sound intolerance.

If during a headache you feel nauseous, irritated by light or sound, and the headache disrupts your usual activities, most likely you have a migraine.

Why Does Migraine Occur?

The cause of migraines is in the brain. Migraine pain is associated with abnormalities in the structures responsible for conducting pain and other sensations. There is a hereditary predisposition to migraine development: that is, you can inherit it from some of your parents.

Who Suffers From Migraine?

Around 12% of adults worldwide suffer from migraines, so the disease is quite common. In women, migraine occurs three times more often than in men. The disease usually begins in childhood or adolescence. In girls, migraine usually starts at puberty. Since there is a hereditary predisposition to migraine development, the condition is passed on from generation to generation.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are substances that are derived from plant extracts or artificially synthesized. They belong to a group of narcotic analgesic medicines. You can use short-acting opioids relieve severe migraine attacks.

Opioid medications people with migraines use may include codeine, hydrocodone, meperidine, tramadol, and oxycodone.

It is essential to understand the main thing: all short-acting narcotic analgesics are capable of causing physical and psychological dependence. These drugs are suitable only for very occasional use. If used regularly, drug dependence and tolerance develop: the body gets used to them, and more and more doses are required for effect to occur [1].

No one can resist the development of addiction to short-acting narcotic analgesics. Take opioid painkillers only with a doctor’s prescription, which specifies the drug’s amount and when to take it. Trying to increase the dose yourself will not lead to a good result. [2]

How To Use Opioids For Migraine?

Narcotic analgesics are used when the headache is increasing from moderate to intense. Delaying taking the medication can lead to an insufficient effect, when the headache only decreases but does not go away entirely and soon returns, forcing you to take another dose. It increases the risk of addiction and tolerance. [3]

Side Effects

All narcotic painkillers can cause nausea and skin itching. It is not an allergy but a side effect. Also, all opioids cause drowsiness. Do not combine them with alcohol and other sedative medications. When taking narcotic analgesics, you should be careful about driving, operating machinery and be especially alert to other potential hazards.

Besides, excessive use of narcotic analgesics leads to a worsening of your migraine. The attacks become more frequent, even every day. 

To avoid the development of drug dependence, tolerance, and chronic headache, limit your intake of narcotic painkillers to ten doses per month. 

In addition, there is evidence that taking even small doses of narcotic analgesics reduces the effectiveness of other migraine relief agents, which can then make it challenging to interrupt migraine attacks. [4]

Thus, narcotic analgesics are a class of drugs that may be appropriate for treating migraines but only with infrequent use. Prolonged, chronic abuse of these drugs leads to drug dependence, tolerance, and chronic headache.

Take opioid pain medications only after consulting with your physician.

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