Medication-overuse headache: epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment

Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2014 Apr;5(2):87-99. doi: 10.1177/2042098614522683.


Medication-overuse headache (MOH) is one of the most common chronic headache disorders and a public health problem with a worldwide prevalence of 1-2%. It is a condition characterized by chronic headache and overuse of different headache medications, and withdrawal of the overused medication is recognised as the treatment of choice. However, the strategy for achieving withdrawal is, at present, based on expert opinion rather than scientific evidence, partly due to the lack of randomised controlled studies. This narrative review investigates different aspects of epidemiology, diagnosis, risk factors and pathogenesis as well as management for MOH. We suggest that the first step in the treatment of MOH should be carried out in general practice and should focus primarily on detoxification. For most patients, both prevention and follow up after detoxification can also be performed in general practice, thus freeing resources for referral of more complicated cases to headache clinics and neurologists. These suffering patients have much to gain by an earlier treatment-focused approach lower down on the treatment ladder.

Keywords: chronic headache; dependence; drug safety; medication overuse; migraine.

Publication types

  • Review