Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Neurology. 2001 Nov 13;57(9):1694-8.

Clinical features of withdrawal headache following overuse of triptans and other headache drugs.

Author information

  • 1Department of Neurology, University Hospital Essen, Germany.



Complete withdrawal from headache medication is the treatment of choice for medication-overuse headache. Discontinuation of the overused headache medication, however, results in the development of withdrawal headache, often associated with nausea, vomiting, and sleep disturbances.


In a prospective study of 95 patients, the authors investigated the duration and severity of withdrawal headache after overuse of various headache drugs, including single and combination analgesics, ergots, and triptans. All patients underwent standard inpatient withdrawal therapy for 14 days.


The duration of withdrawal headache was shorter in patients overusing triptans (4.1 days) than in patients overusing ergots (6.7 days) or analgesics (9.5 days; p < 0.002). The mean headache intensity on the first day of withdrawal did not differ between the groups (p = 0.821). By day 14, however, it was lower in patients overusing triptans (0.08) than in patients overusing ergots (0.4) or analgesics (0.9; p < 0.005). Rescue medication was requested less by patients undergoing triptan withdrawal (0.25 requests) than by patients undergoing ergot withdrawal (1.25) or analgesic withdrawal (1.85; p < 0.05). Similar to findings in the entire patient population, withdrawal headache was shorter and less severe in migraineurs overusing triptans than in those overusing ergots or analgesics. Because only patients with migraine, but no patient with tension-type headache, overused triptans, withdrawal headache was shorter in the group of patients with migraine alone (6.7 days versus 9.6 days for patients with tension-type headache and 8.5 days for patients with combination headache, p < 0.02).


The duration and severity of withdrawal clearly depend on the type of overused headache drug only.

Comment in

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk