Increased Doses of Aspirin Help Withdrawal-triggered Headaches

September 22, 2010

High doses of aspirin my help headache and migraine sufferers.

Patients suffering from severe headaches and migraines caused by drug withdrawal may benefit from high doses of aspirin as a treatment, according to a study by researchers at the UCSF Headache Center.

The study was published in the journal Neurology. Participants were given aspirin through an IV and 25% of the time they reported a significant reduction in pain, which was reported as three points on the 10-point pain scale. Participants also reported a more modest pain reduction about 40% of the time.

“These results tell migraine sufferers, their doctors and insurance providers that high-dose intravenous aspirin is a beneficial way to treat difficult withdrawal headaches via a medicine that is not addictive or toxic,” said Peter Goadsby, MD, PhD, lead investigator of the study, professor and director of the UCSF Headache Center, in a press release. “We hope to make this inexpensive therapy more available to patients seeking treatment for severe pain.”

The researchers reviewed the charts of 168 patients, ages 18 to 75 years. Of the patients, 51 were men and 117 were women. Nearly all subjects (159) were admitted to the hospital for severe headache complicated by medication overuse. These participants then received doses of one gram of aspirin, which is equivalent to three times the dose for typical pain relief. The medication was administered through an IV at an average of five doses.

The safety and effectiveness of the high-dose intravenous aspirin was measured by reviewing the nurses’ notes and the hourly diaries of 86 participants. The patients kept hourly diaries about their pain before, during, and after treatment. They rated their pain on a 10-point scale.

“It is important to acknowledge that a placebo was not used in this case because participants knew they were receiving aspirin therapy,” Goadsby said. “However, a number of previous placebo-controlled trials have shown intravenous aspirin to be effective for migraine.”

The team said further research is needed to understand how the aspirin works to reduce headache pain.