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Many Migraine Sufferers Given Ineffective, Addictive Meds

Opioids a poor choice, especially for children, doctors say

THURSDAY, June 18, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Many people with migraines, including children, get ineffective and potentially addictive drugs for their pain, two new studies suggest. The findings were scheduled for presentation this week at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society, held from June 18 to 21 in Washington, D.C.

Mia Minen, M.D., director of headache services at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues surveyed 218 adults seen at a single headache center, most of whom were eventually diagnosed with migraine. Almost 56 percent said they’d ever been prescribed an opioid for their headaches, while 57 percent had been given a barbiturate-containing drug. Many currently took at least one of those medications. Most often, an emergency department doctor had prescribed the opioid, though primary care doctors were also identified as first prescribers. When it came to barbiturates, general neurologists were the most common prescribers, the investigators found.

In the second study, researchers analyzed electronic records of 21,015 U.S. children and teens who’d been to an emergency department or doctor’s office for headache. Overall, 16 percent were prescribed an opioid — with the odds higher if a child was diagnosed with migraine or suspected migraine, versus no formal diagnosis. Emergency department doctors and other specialists were twice as likely to prescribe an opioid, compared with primary care doctors, the findings showed.

The findings are worrisome, study author Robert Nicholson, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine at the Mercy Clinic Headache Center in St. Louis, told HealthDay — partly because repeated opiate use can lead to more frequent, or even chronic, migraines. It was less common in primary care offices, he noted. “Although it may not be a viable option in every situation,” Nicholson said, “I would encourage parents to have their kids’ migraines taken care of by a health care team with whom they can establish an ongoing relationship.”

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