Burden of increasing opioid use in the treatment of migraine: Results from the Migraine in America Symptoms and Treatment Study

Richard B. Lipton, Dawn C. Buse, David W. Dodick, Todd J. Schwedt, Preeti Singh, Sagar Munjal, Kristina Fanning, Ryan Bostic BS, Michael L. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: We sought to assess factors associated with the frequency of self-reported prescription opioid use in persons with migraine, including demographic variables, comorbidities, headache characteristics, and patterns of consultation. Background: Despite the dose-dependent effect of opioids on migraine progression and the association with negative outcomes, migraine treatment often includes opioids. The Migraine in America Symptoms and Treatment Study focuses on individuals with migraine who receive prescription acute medications, including those receiving and those not receiving opioids. Methods: This web-based panel survey identified people in the United States with migraine using a validated screener. This analysis stratified people with migraine into 4 groups based on days of monthly opioid use: non-opioid users, ≤3 days, 4‒9 days, and ≥10 days per month. Results: Of 15,133 respondents with migraine, 4701 (31%) reported acute prescription medication use for headache/migraine in the previous 3 months (mean age 45 years, 71.6% [3367/4701] female), of whom 32.5% (1528/4701) reported opioid use. About one-third of respondents with primary care or neurology consults in the prior 6 months reported receiving an opioid, and more than half of respondents (209/391, 53.5%) with a pain clinic consultation did so. Models compared those using opioids ≤3 days/month (879/4701, 18.7%), 4‒9 days/month (304/4701, 6.5%), ≥10 days/month (345/4701, 7.3%) to non-opioid users (3173/4701, 67.5%). Compared to non-opioid users, infrequent users (≤3 days/month) were more likely to be male and less likely to have chronic migraine or to screen positive for anxiety and depression; and frequent opioid users (the 4‒9 days/month and the ≥10 days/month groups) were more likely to be male, to smoke, to be obese, to report greater pain interference, to have moderate to severe disability, to have symptoms of anxiety and depression, to use fewer triptans and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and to have poor acute treatment optimization. Conclusion: Among prescription medication users, this cross-sectional analysis shows that increasing use of prescription opioids is associated with male gender, chronic migraine, more severe disability, anxiety and depression, poor acute treatment optimization, and treatment in a pain clinic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-116
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • frequency
  • headache
  • migraine
  • opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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