The Dangers of Self-Medicating Chronic Headaches

The Dangers of Self-Medicating Chronic HeadachesHeadaches and migraines can leave a sufferer in pain and unable to function regularly at work or at home. When the source of the headaches cannot be found, doctors often prescribe addictive painkillers, or patients take matters into their own hands and self-medicate with potentially harmful drugs like Demerol.

Headache Treatment and Addiction

“The Scary New Migraine Mistake” (More Magazine October 2011) reveals that “an estimated one in five migraine patients is prescribed opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet…almost 20 percent of the opioids prescribed in this country are dispensed to relieve the pain of migraines and headaches.” Using prescription painkillers as prescribed can result in addiction, particularly in individuals who are already at risk for this disease due to environmental, social, or genetic factors. These painkillers are typically prescribed to be used as needed for the management of headache pain, and these loose guidelines for use make accidental or intentional abuse simple. Turning to drugs like Demerol without medical supervision increases the chances of dependence and addiction.

Headaches and Substance Abuse

A study published in the September 2012 issue of Clinical Neurology and Neuroscience found that, of the population of substance users studied, “94.5% had headaches occur after substance abuse. A higher incidence of headache was found in the benzodiazepine, methylamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, volatile solvent abusers.” Individuals turning to substances for relief from headaches may find their headaches increasing in frequency or severity. Individuals who did not suffer from headaches prior to substance abuse may turn to other drugs or more frequent drug use to mask the pain without realizing substance use is the cause. The study goes on to reveal, “Seventy-eight percent of headache patients have never sought help from a physician despite the severity and frequency of headache.” These individuals are unlikely to be suffering without taking any action and may be self-medicating their headaches. Although Demerol is not one of the primary drugs associated with headaches, headaches are a possible side effect of use. Opiate withdrawal symptoms also include headaches, joint and muscle pain, and Demerol users who do not recognize the signs of dependence and withdrawal may take more of the drug to relieve this pain.

Find a Drug-Free and Pain-Free Life

If you or a loved ones suffers from headaches and struggles with substance abuse, a pain- and drug-free life is within reach. Call our toll-free helpline to get connected to programs specializing in addiction recovery and pain management. Our admissions coordinators will make sure you find the treatment that will provide relief and the start to a drug-free future.