American Headache Society

View all recommendations from this society

Released November 21, 2013

Don’t prescribe opioid or butalbital-containing medications as first-line treatment for recurrent headache disorders.

These medications impair alertness and may produce dependence or addiction syndromes, an undesirable risk for the young, otherwise healthy people most likely to have recurrent headaches. They increase the risk that episodic headache disorders such as migraine will become chronic, and may produce heightened sensitivity to pain. Use may be appropriate when other treatments fail or are contraindicated. Such patients should be monitored for the development of chronic headache.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

The American Headache Society (AHS) Board of Directors approved the creation of a task force to lead work on the Choosing Wisely® campaign. The task force consisted of: Elizabeth Loder, MD, MPH, (AHS President), Stephen Silberstein, MD, (Chair of the AHS Guidelines and Position Paper Committee), Randolph Evans, MD, Benjamin Frishberg, MD, Scott Litin, MD, Donald Dworek, MD, Josif Stakic, MD, and Jessica Ailani, MD.

The list was developed in consultation with AHS members, who received an electronic survey informing them of the project and asking them to recommend items to be considered for the list. The task force reviewed a list of 11 candidate topics that had been developed from the over 100 suggestions received from AHS members.

The task force met twice by conference call to review the suggestions and choose items for further development, and then communicated electronically during the development and approval process. Final items were selected based on commonly encountered situations in headache medicine associated with poor patient outcomes, low-value care or misuse or overuse of resources. The five recommendations were then approved by the AHS Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

The AHS disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at: www.americanheadachesociety.org/professional_resources/disclosure_policy.

Sources

Bigal ME, Lipton RB. Excessive opioid use and the development of chronic migraine. Pain. 2009 Apr;142(3):179–82.

Bigal ME, Serrano D, Buse D, Scher AI, Stewart WF, Lipton RB. Migraine medications and evolution from episodic to chronic migraine: a longitudinal population-based study. Headache. 2008;48:1157–68.

Scher AI, Stewart WF, Ricci JA, Lipton RB. Factors associated with the onset and remission of chronic daily headache in a population-based study. Pain. 2003;106(1-2):81–9.

Katsarava Z, Schneeweiss S, Kurth T, Kroener U, Fritsche G, Eikermann A, Diener HC, Limmroth V. Incidence and predictors for chronicity of headache in patients with episodic migraine. Neurology. 2004 Mar;62(5):788–90.