Painkillers 'can increase frequency of headaches'

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The Independent Online
HEADACHE sufferers who take drugs like aspirin or paracetamol to relieve the pain may actually make their symptoms worse, and run the risk of addiction, according to a study.

Doctors say that misuse of painkillers is often linked with the frequency of headaches, and the findings explain how these drugs can turn occasional migraines into a daily headache. The problem covers a range of common painkillers which millions of people rely on for headache relief. The research findings, to be presented at the 10th Migraine Trust International Symposium in London - which started yesterday and finishes on Thursday - will show that people who experience regular headaches can become trapped in a vicious circle. The painkillers they take trigger further headache episodes. They may develop a tolerance to the drug and so increase the dose, suffering a 'rebound' headache.

If they stop taking the drugs their headaches will improve in the long term but initially the pain can get worse and new, unpleasant symptoms develop. Many sufferers turn back to the drugs.

The Migraine Trust said yesterday that people who have daily headaches should talk to their family doctor. They may require a strong prescription painkiller to help them 'withdraw' from their over-the-counter remedy.

Other studies to be presented at the conference will provide further evidence of the role of red wine in triggering headaches and migraine.

Laboratory tests have shown that red wine blocks an enzyme which breaks down substances it contains called phenols. If the level of phenols in the blood is high enough, a headache may result.