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Two of every hundred Swedes have headaches that are caused by medication overuse

News: Dec 05, 2012

Individuals suffering from headaches such as migraines or tension headaches are often relegated to taking drugs to make it through the day. But many Swedes, and especially women, actually get headaches from headache medications. These are the findings of a thesis from Sahlgrenska Academy.

With the help of Sifo, researcher Pernilla Jonsson interviewed 44,300 Swedes to track the prevalence of medication overuse headaches (MOH) for her thesis.

More common among women

This study, which is the first of its type in Sweden, shows that 2 out of 100 adult Swedes suffer from headaches caused by overuse of headache medication. This type of headache is three times more common among women than men, and most common among people between 40 and 50 years of age.

A "vicious circle"

Pernilla Jonsson describes MOH as a “vicious circle”:

“As headache frequency increases, the need to medicate also increases, which contributes to overuse and results in even more headaches. Eventually, you have a headache every day or every other day,” she says.

Over-the-counter medications

The study shows that among those afflicted with MOH, almost half treat their headaches only with over-the-counter medications.

“Most often, they used medications containing acetaminophen, which is found in Alvedon and Panodil. But research from other countries has established that all acute drugs used to treat headaches, both prescription and over-the-counter, may contribute to the development of this disease if used ten days per month or more,” says Pernilla Jonsson.

Link to levels of education

The thesis also concludes that headaches due to overmedication are more common among individuals with lower levels of education, but the reason for these differences is unknown.

“Thanks to our study, we now know that MOH is at least as common in Sweden as in other countries. We know which groups are hit hardest, and which medications are most used. Such knowledge is crucial to being able to take preventive measures,” says Pernilla Jonsson.

Preventive efforts

An essential component of preventive efforts is to increase knowledge and awareness of the disease among healthcare personnel, pharmacy personnel and the general public. The recommended treatment for sufferers of MOH is to stop overusing medications, according to Pernilla Jonsson.

“You should reduce your use of acute medications to a maximum of 10 days per month. Coping with frequent headaches may be difficult, in which case it is wise to seek medical care.”

The thesis “Problematic medication use – Epidemiology and qualitative aspects of medication overuse headache and non-adherence to prophylactic migraine treatment” was defended on November 16.

Link to thesis

Contact:
Pernilla Jonsson, doctoral student at the Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University
+46 (0)31-786 68 66
+46 (0)73-047 36 15
pernilla.jonsson@socmed.gu.se

Primary supervisor: Associate professor Tove Hedenrud, +46 (0)31-786 68 55, tove.hendenrud@socmed.gu.se
More information about Social Medicine is available at www.socmed.gu.se

 

BY:
+4631 786 38 69

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