Over 60% of patients attending Irish migraine/headache clinics are suffering from Medication Overuse Headache (MOH) – a chronic headache caused by overuse of painkillers and prescription medications. The Migraine Association of Ireland estimates that up to 240,000 people in Ireland suffer from this condition.
“MOH is an insidious problem” says Jenny Costello, communications officer with the Migraine Association of Ireland. “Essentially people are taking medication to relieve a headache that is itself caused by taking medication, and the only cure is complete withdrawal.”
Dr Edward O’ Sullivan of the Cork Headache/Migraine Clinic states that patients suffering from MOH must go through a ‘detox’ programme at the clinics. “Either they stop cold turkey, or they taper their medications to two or three times a week. Non drug therapies such as exercise, stress management, physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapies are all very important.”
Episodic migraine often changes into Medication Overuse Headache or Chronic Daily Headache according to consultant neurologist Dr Martin Ruttledge of the Beaumont and Mater headache clinics.
In addition women are between three and five times more likely to develop MOH.
New recommendations are to take painkillers/Triptans no more than five to eight days per month because it is the number of days per month on which a person takes medication and not the number of tablets per month that increases the risk of MOH.
For further information on Medication Overuse Headache or migraine see www.migraine.ie or call the MAI helpline on 1850 200 378 (ROI)/0844 826 9323 (NI).