Opiate use to control bowel motility may induce chronic daily headache in patients with migraine

Headache. 2001 Mar;41(3):303-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.2001.111006303.x.


Objectives: To investigate whether opiate overuse might cause chronic daily headache in those with migraine, we studied patients who were taking codeine (or other opiates) for control of bowel motility after colectomy for ulcerative colitis.

Background: Analgesic overuse is considered by many to be one factor which can result in the transformation of migraine into a chronic daily headache pattern. Most of the evidence for this comes from patients with migraine who are taking increasing amounts of analgesia for headache. Many of these patients revert to an intermittent migraine pattern once the analgesics are stopped.

Methods: Women who were 1 year postcolectomy for ulcerative colitis were identified in several colorectal surgery practices in Calgary. They were sent a questionnaire designed to determine if they had a history of migraine prior to surgery, if they currently had chronic daily headache, what medications they were taking to control bowel motility, and what medications they were taking for headache.

Results: Twenty-eight patients who met our inclusion criteria returned completed questionnaires. Eight of these exceeded the recommended limits for opiate use in patients with headache. Eight patients met diagnostic criteria for migraine. Two patients had chronic daily headache starting after surgery. Both used daily opiates beginning after their surgery, and both had a history of migraine. The other six patients who used opiates daily did not have a history of migraine and did not have chronic daily headache. All patients with migraine who used daily opiates to control bowel motility following surgery developed chronic daily headache after surgery.

Conclusions: Patients with migraine who use daily opiates for any reason are at high risk of developing transformed migraine with chronic daily headache. This risk appears much lower in patients without a history of migraine who use opiates for nonpain indications.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Codeine / adverse effects*
  • Codeine / pharmacology
  • Codeine / therapeutic use
  • Colectomy
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / surgery
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects
  • Headache Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Headache Disorders / complications
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Narcotics / adverse effects*
  • Narcotics / pharmacology
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use
  • Pilot Projects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Narcotics
  • Codeine