Americans increasingly take opioids for migraines, study finds

Nineteen percent of Americans are using opioids to specifically to treat migraine headaches, up from 16 percent in 2009, according to new research.

The ongoing study, led by researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and conducted on behalf of Eli Lilly, involved a web-based survey of people who suffer from migraines. The results for the first part of the study were presented at the 61st annual meeting of the American Headache Society in Philadelphia, July 11-14.

For the study, researchers will follow two groups of 20,000 U.S. residents with migraine for two years. One group was enrolled in 2018, while the second group will begin enrollment in 2020.

Data from the first group shows that 19 percent of people with migraine are currently using opioids to treat migraines, an increase of 3 percentage points since 16 percent reported in 2009 in the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study.

Nearly 25 percent of people who reported having four or more migraine headaches per month are currently using opioids to treat their pain, researchers said.

American Headache Society guidelines recommend using triptans or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as initial treatment for migraines.

"Against the backdrop of the U.S. opioid epidemic, it's concerning that people may be using these drugs in place of conventional therapies proven to be safer and more effective for migraine," said Sait Ashina, MD, a neurologist and director of the Comprehensive Headache Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Ashina presented the study findings at the conference.

More articles on opioids:
2% of US women continue using opioids after childbirth, study finds
CDC: Drug overdose death rate nearly quadrupled in past 2 decades
How Hospital for Special Surgery prescribed 500K fewer opioid pills in 18 months

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