Published : 2023-07-26

Medication overuse headache as a consequence of taking painkillers – a review of current literature

Kinga Grużewska-Piotrowska

Agnieszka Grużewska


Introduction: Many people use painkillers to stop a headache, not realizing that the misuse of these substances can cause this pain. Patients often use OTC drugs and do not treat these drugs as potentially dangerous. A pattern where a person with pain takes more and more pain-inducing drugs can lead to addiction. In the Polish literature, you can find terms such as “rebound headache” or “drug-induced headache”. The current International Classification of Headaches 3 beta uses the term 'medication overuse headache' (MOH). This name suggests the occurrence of headaches as a consequence of the abuse of any medical preparations, but according to the classification, it is associated only with the abuse of a drug or drugs used in acute pain therapy. Ból głowy z nadużywania leków przeciwbólowych – przegląd aktualnej literatury

The aim of the study: This study aims to gather and summarize current knowledge about etiology, epidemiology and treatment in MOH - medication overuse headache.

Materials and methods: This review was based on available data collected in the PubMed database and Google Scholar web search engine, using following terms: ‘Medication overuse headache’, ‘main risk factors for MOH’, ‘pathophysiology of drug-induced headaches’, ‘treatment of medication-misuse headache’.

Conclusion: Medication overuse headache is a worldwide problem. There are many risk factors responsible for the development of this disease. Some of them are modifiable, so physicians should educate patients and their families about the tolerance of the doses and possible addictions. Large-scale randomized clinical trials are needed to compare different treatment regimens and determine the best evidence-based approach. Until then, the focus should be on raising awareness of MOH in the general population. Treatment requires an individual approach to the patient. Regular check-ups after treatment are important to prevent recurrence of the disease.


Drug-induced headache, Medication overuse headache, MOH, chronic headache, painkillers





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Grużewska-Piotrowska, K., & Grużewska, A. (2023). Medication overuse headache as a consequence of taking painkillers – a review of current literature. Prospects in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 21(3), 6–14.

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Editorial Team
Stefana Banacha 1
02-097 Warsaw, Poland
Medical University of Warsaw
ul. Żwirki i Wigury 61
02-091 Warszawa

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