According to a new study, too many people are being prescribed opioid drugs for migraine relief. Opioids are not very effective for migraine relief, and they’re potentially dangerous.
A Treatment of Last Resort
The new study, published in the journal Cephalalgia, looked at the experience of 2900 Americans who visited the doctor for migraine relief from 2006 to 2013. The visits were randomly selected from medical records and are said to be statistically representative of about 50 million office visits nationwide.
Among these patients, about 15% were prescribed opiates for their migraines. A headache specialist looking at the results said that this rate is “way too high.” Researchers in the study noted that opioids should be considered a treatment of “last resort” for migraines and other chronic pains.
The problem with opioids is that they are not actually effective for migraines. Opioid use can cause people to have more frequent migraines, potentially speeding the transition from episodic to chronic migraines. Over time, opioids can also become less effective for pain, requiring stronger doses to achieve a similar level of relief.
This weakening effect is part of the reason why opioids have such a high risk for addiction and overdose. Recently, the overuse of opioids in the US has been declared a national emergency, since the number of deaths has been increasing significantly in recent years, partly due to overprescription.
Researchers say that instead of opioids, patients should have been prescribed a more migraine-specific drug. However, the study showed that about 40% of patients weren’t given an abortive migraine medication–one that helps stop migraine attacks–while about the same percentage weren’t prescribed a preventive migraine medication–one that prevents migraine attacks.
In other words, when people go to their doctors for migraines, two out of five get no effective relief while one in six gets a treatment that’s not effective and potentially harmful.
Drug-Free Treatments Are Available
People in this study went to their doctors for migraine relief, but many of them didn’t receive it. Although about half of the people simply saw a general practitioner, but between a fifth and a quarter actually saw a neurologist, although it’s unclear whether there was any benefit in seeing a specialist in terms of prescriptions.
Researchers recommend that people should learn to advocate more for themselves. Just because doctors prescribe medication for migraines doesn’t mean it’s safe–or effective. Instead, people should question their prescriptions, and, if they are unhappy, seek a second opinion.
If you’re unhappy with your doctor’s tendency to prescribe drugs for your condition, including migraines, we can help.
We offer drug-free migraine treatments that can help many people see fewer migraines and less intense migraines. TMJ is a common trigger for migraines, and treating it can help your migraines. In fact, if you’ve noticed your migraines are getting more frequent, you are more likely to have TMJ.
If you suspect TMJ might be contributing to your migraines, please call (201) 343-4044 today for an appointment with TMJ dentist Dr. Marlen Martirossian at River Edge Dental, New Jersey’s center for TMJ, sleep apnea, & reconstructive dentistry.