Taking Opioids for Migraines Can Make Them More Frequent

If you have migraines, you likely have a strong desire to do anything you can to get rid of them. The pain can be so intense that there’s a temptation to just get the strongest pain medication you can find, including opioids. But opioids have many risks — they may even cause your migraines to transition from episodic to chronic.

What Are Episodic and Chronic Migraines?

The distinction between episodic migraines is based on how often you get migraines. Episodic migraines are defined as migraines that occur less than fifteen days out of every 30 days. Chronic migraines occur 15 days or more out of every 30 days. Note that this is headache days, not headache attacks, so if you have five migraine attacks lasting three days each, that is considered a chronic migraine. Chronic migraines are sometimes called “transformed migraines,” because many people with episodic migraines see them “transform” into chronic migraines.

How Opioids Increase Transition Risk

People taking opioids for episodic migraines are about twice as likely to transition to chronic migraines. We’re not entirely certain why — remember, we don’t fully understand migraines — but it seems that the mechanism is likely linked to opioid tolerance.

Researchers developed a model based on “hyperalgesic priming” to describe the transition to chronic migraines. Essentially, when your brain is exposed to opioids, it gets more sensitive to pain and inflammation. Minor stimuli that might in the past have been tolerated without creating the cascade effect which triggers migraines, now cause your brain to respond catastrophically and trigger migraines.

Consider Drug-Free Migraine Treatment

The opioid-induced transition to chronic migraine reminds us that drugs come with risks, which are often unpredictable and in some cases can make your condition worse. Although there are migraine drugs that aren’t linked to transformed migraines, such as triptans, there are no migraine drugs without risks.

For people whose TMJ contributes to the frequency and intensity of migraines, TMJ treatment offers a drug-free alternative that can reduce your migraines while combating other TMJ symptoms.

To learn whether TMJ treatment can help with your migraines in River Edge, NJ, please call 201-546-8512 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry.