With migraine treatment, it’s tempting to think that the most important thing is to get rid of pain right now. Sometimes, this can lead to us taking medicine just to kill the pain, which might help in the short term, but in the long term can have negative consequences.
One consequence of taking opioids for migraines is that migraines may become more frequent, similar to medication overuse headache.
One distinction in migraines is between episodic and chronic migraines. Episodic migraines are defined as less than fifteen headache days out of every calendar days 30. Chronic migraines, on the other hand, occur 15 or more days out of every 30. You might have three migraine attacks lasting two days and three migraine attacks lasting three days, for example.
When a person starts out with episodic migraines, then transitions to chronic migraines, that’s considered a “transformed” migraine.
How Opioids Increase Transition Risk
When you take opioids for episodic migraines, your risk of transitioning to chronic migraines is about twice as high as those taking other migraine medications.
Why opioids increase transition risk is not exactly clear at this point. Remember, migraines are still a little mysterious. But we know that migraines are often triggered by inflammatory processes in the trigeminal nerve, which causes swelling in the brain, resulting in pain.
Opioid tolerance is a well-documented phenomenon, and it seems that migraines are affected by a similar process. When opioids increase your body’s sensitivity to pain and inflammation, they also increase its sensitivity to migraine triggers, which means you’re more likely to develop the crippling headaches.
Consider Drug-Free Migraine Treatment
Although many drugs can be effective for migraines (and future ones may be even more effective), they often come with side effects. In the case of opioids, the cost of having more frequent headaches that you have to tackle with more and more opiates because your body is more tolerant of them is serious. It commonly leads to opioid abuse, which can lead to overdose and poisoning.
To avoid serious complications and side effects related to drug treatment for migraines, consider TMJ treatment. It doesn’t work for all migraine sufferers, but many migraines develop because of TMJ.