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The Dangers of Self-Medicating Chronic Headaches

The Dangers of Self-Medicating Chronic HeadachesChronic headaches are an incredibly distressing concern that occurs in a large number of people around the world. These frequently occurring headaches may become unbearable, affecting the person’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Unfortunately, many people who experience chronic headaches abuse painkillers to overcome the constant pain they experience. This can lead to damaging effects on the body.

Types of Headaches

There are three main types of headaches that can occur: tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Tension headaches are characterized by feelings of tightness or dull pressure on both sides of the head. This pain may be described as a tight band or hat around their forehead. Tension headaches may be diagnosed as chronic if they occur regularly for over three months.

Migraine headaches are characterized by a moderate to severe throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head. However, they may also occur on both sides in some cases. Migraines may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. They often occur recurrently and are frequently diagnosed as a chronic disorder.

The third type of headache is a cluster headache. These are characterized by severe pain that develops rapidly, usually around or behind one eye. They are usually short-lasting but may occur several times in a day. Though cluster headaches are rare, those who experience them often find that it is a chronic concern.

Self-Medicating for Chronic Headaches

Regardless of what type of headache is occurring, it can become a serious, distressing problem when it occurs chronically. Chronic pain can have a strong impact on psychological wellbeing, potentially resulting in depression, anxiety, and anger. It may also result in physical effects such as muscle tension, decreased energy, and a lowered immune system. Because of these effects, those suffering from chronic headaches must develop a personal method of coping with their pain.

Unfortunately, the effects of chronically occurring headaches lead many people to abuse drugs or alcohol. When a person is diagnosed with chronic headaches, he will likely be prescribed medications to prevent the reoccurrence of headaches. However, there are many times those those suffering from chronic headaches will abuse medications that are not prescribed to them. This often occurs when the individual has not sought treatment for their disorder or if they feel that their prescribed medications are not working well enough.

Painkillers are perhaps the most common category of drugs that are abused as a method of self-medication for chronic headaches. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen may be taken initially in high doses. These drugs are easily purchased over the counter and are therefore perceived by many to be harmless. However, when someone self-medicates with aspirin, they risk the development of stomach ulcers and increased bleeding. Acetaminophen, on the other hand, is a different kind of painkiller that is also available over the counter. The abuse of acetaminophen can result in liver damage and possible liver failure.

Get Help for Painkiller Addiction

The abuse of certain painkillers, like opioids, can result in addiction. If you or a loved one has become addicted to painkillers, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about addiction treatment.

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