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Medication Overuse Headache Is NOT Addiction!

ThumbDown I don't like to write about articles that others have written about Migraines or headaches when it's to say that the articles are bad. I prefer to share good articles with accurate and useful information. An article on Suite 101 that was pointed out to me by a Migraineur brings me to make an exception to my preferences today.

Geraldine Ketchum has published an article on Suite 101 entitled "Migraines and Rebound Headaches." Medication Overuse Headache (MOH), aka rebound, is an important issue to those of us with Migraines or other headache disorders. Good articles about MOH are always in demand. However, Ketchum's article is fraught with misinformation, misinterpretations, and errors.

Rather than going into all of them, I'm going to focus on this statement:

"This type of addiction is neither a moral nor a psychological issue. It is a pain issue. But once the body has gotten used to having a drug, it will not voluntarily give it up. It wants more of the wonderful relief that a lack of pain brings – that sense of being lighter and able to think again."

Addiction? Let me make this very clear:

Medication overuse headache is NOT
a form of addiction!

Ketchum needs to do some research into what addiction is. It's different from dependence and tolerance, but too many people make the mistake that Ketchum has made -- writing without learning the difference FIRST. I'm going to quote from an excellent article, "Opioids: Addiction vs. Dependence," by Karen Lee Richards.

"Addiction is a neurobiological disease that has genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors. It is characterized by one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Poor control over drug use
  • Compulsive drug use
  • Continued use of a drug despite physical, mental and/or social harm
  • A craving for the drug"
"Physical dependence  is the body's adaptation to a particular drug. In other words, the individual's body gets used to receiving regular doses of a certain medication. When the medication is abruptly stopped or the dosage is reduced too quickly, the person will experience withdrawal symptoms."
"Tolerance is a condition that occurs when the body adapts or gets used to a particular medication, lessening its effectiveness. When that happens, it is necessary to either increase the dosage or switch to another type of medication in order to maintain pain relief."

Wondering what qualifies Ketchum to write about Migraine and other headache disorders, I followed the link to her biography. She's a librarian with degrees in English language and literature and library and information science. I see no medical background or any other information in her bio that would indicate her possessing knowledge of or experience with Migraines or headaches. Her background would indicate, however, an ability to research topics well. I find it disturbing that she didn't research this article better.

Myths and misunderstandings about Migraine abound. When an article such as this one is published, it does nothing to rid us of these myths and misunderstandings. It does the opposite; it perpetuates them.

Additionally, Migraineurs bear enough burden from the stigma associated with Migraine. We don't need people publishing poorly researched and written articles that equate medication overuse headache with addiction.

Ms. Ketchum, if you happen to read this, I hope you'll research better before writing more about Migraines and headaches.

To anyone in a position of authority at Suite 101, I urge you to do more to verify the accuracy of articles published on your network. Review by physicians who specialize in the areas about which Suite 101 articles are written could prove helpful. Your slogan is, "Insightful writers, informed readers." Ketchum is hardly insightful when it comes to this topic, and reading this article will not lead to informed readers.


Ketchum, Geraldine. "Migraines and Rebound Heaaches." Suite 101. September 10, 2010.

Richards, Karen Lee. "Opioids: Addiction vs. Dependence." ChronicPainConnection. December 1, 2008.

Live well,



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© Teri Robert, 2010
Last updated September 20, 2010.

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