Background

Although risk factors for medication-overuse headache have been identified within the general population, most studies have neglected clinical samples. The present study examined the relative and combined associations of these factors with medication-overuse headache in a sample of US adults seeking treatment for primary headache disorders.

Methods

Treatment-seeking headache patients provided data on demographics, headache variables, psychiatric variables, use of headache medications, and use of other prescription medications and substances. A classification tree selection strategy was utilized within this cross-sectional study to differentiate between those with and without medication-overuse headache, and a final multivariable model assessed their combined utility.

Results

Forty-three of 164 participants (26.2%) met diagnostic criteria for medication-overuse headache. Relative to non-medication-overuse headache participants, participants with medication-overuse headache reported greater headache-related disability (odds ratio = 1.09, 95% confidence interval = 1.01-1.18), escape and avoidance responses indicative of fear of pain (odds ratio = 1.07, 95% confidence interval = 1.00-1.15), and use of combination medications for headache (odds ratio = 3.10, 95% confidence interval = 1.51-6.36). The final multivariable model differentiated well between the 2 groups (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve = .78; 95% confidence interval = .71-.86).

Conclusions

Items that assess headache-related disability, use of combination medications, and fear of pain help identify patients who are currently overusing acute headache medications and may serve as indicators of treatment progress. Future studies should apply similar analytic approaches longitudinally to identify headache sufferers at risk for medication-overuse headache prior to headache progression.

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