The Dangers of OTC Drugs Against Migraine

Headache that constantly bashes your head and makes you feel like it is about to explode – this is the perfect way to describe migraine. The frequency of this issue is quite surprising. Millions of men and women all over the world have terrible pains and cannot efficiently work. In some countries people with migraine are deemed invalids and allowed to work less than others due to their inability to function normally when they have migraine.

The Dangers of OTC Drugs Against Migraine

One of the biggest challenges for modern medicine is to find all possible sources of migraine. There are simply too many variables and lots of possible explanations why we have pains that can easily turn a happy person into a miserable one in a couple of minutes. Migraine medicines are often ineffective due to addressing wrong issues. Many drugs work for some people and feel completely useless in other patients. Migraine is so individual that finding a miraculous solution is a task that so far looks absolutely impossible.

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Nonetheless, there are various online stores and companies that constantly advertise their drugs and claim that they will be able to finish off migraine once and for all. Sadly, the vast majority of such advertisements is either misleading or straight up fraudulent. In fact, responsible manufacturers always specify that their anti-migraine medicine has a distinct mechanism of action that may be completely ineffective if a patient does not respond to the treatment due to individual specifics.

Many over-the-counter drugs that can be helpful when you have migraine should be used very carefully. While we do not claim that such medicines are dangerous on their own, we do urge you to consult with your doctor before trying to implement OTC drugs in your treatment plans. Some of them may interfere with prescription drugs while others may pose danger on their own.

Excedrin – migraine fighter number 1

The world’s most famous drug against migraine is Excedrin which is an over-the-counter drug that has been around for seemingly ever. The medication earned its fame due to its quick reaction time and availability. However, up to some period in the history of the pharmaceutical industry, no one actually cared about the contents of the medication that contains mostly harmless compounds and a combination of aspirin and caffeine as well as a hefty dose of an active ingredient acetaminophen which is a safe an effective pain relief drug.

The problem with contents was that many did not care to read the label attentively and harmed themselves by either overdosing caffeine or using aspiring together with Excedrin causing severe blood pressure drops and other temporary health issues that could be very dangerous for the organism. Excedrin was used carelessly for decades by several generations of Americans and Europeans. While the drug is nearly incapable of harming you on its own, the possibility of negative interactions with prescription drugs makes it very dangerous.

Note that the company often advertises the drug in multiple forms and claims that they work differently making some people think that if one doesn’t help against migraine, another may work out. However, the whole line of Excedrin related products is made mostly of two ingredients – paracetamol and aspiring meaning that switching from one drug to another is not rational.

There also was a huge media scandal around the drug in 2012 when a whole shipment of drugs has been recalled due to terrible problems with production control. Some packages could contain stray pills, pieces of other tablets, and remnants of other Novartis drugs. Knowing that the company also produces prescription drugs and relatively dangerous compounds, the very possibility of such mishaps is very concerning for people who use Novartis medications such as Excedrin.

We do not blame the corporation. Neither we want to make it seem like Excedrin is a terrible drug. Quite the contrary, the medication is absolutely safe and can be used by pregnant and breastfeeding moms. However, using any drug irresponsibly can lead to sad consequences and severe health issues. If you have migraine and want to use Excedrin, just have a brief talk with your doctor and check whether prescription drugs that you may be using interact with paracetamol and/or aspirin.

Other migraine medicines – Naproxen

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that we call simply NSAIDs can be extremely effective against migraines caused by inflammations and some other specific reasons. However, the very principle of pharmacological effect provided by the drug differs from that of paracetamol or aspirin. At the same time, Naproxen has to be taken seriously by many people due to a long list of possible adverse effects and an intermediate to low-risk of stomach ulcer development. In fact, all specialists prescribe the drug only coupled with some kind of a PPI.

Proton Pump Inhibitors are a drug class that basically prevent stomach acids from exceeding certain levels. This usually nullifies the risk of developing stomach ulcer due to using Naproxen. If you want to treat headache with Naproxen, don’t forget that the drug has several adverse effects that can be very dangerous. Using it may cause dizziness, even more severe migraine, unexpected rash, sudden bruises, and problems with digestion. Amongst more dangerous side effects are stroke and myocardial infarcts. While the latter is extremely unlikely to occur in a healthy person, the very possibility of such dangerous side effect is worrisome.

Naproxen also may negatively interact with a multitude of prescription drugs. Notable interactions are with antidepressants (any antidepressants), blood thinners, medications against arterial hypertension, diuretics, steroids, and some others. One of the problems is that many migraines are caused by hypertension and problems related to the blood vessel system meaning that you cannot use Naproxen together with medications that directly treat the root problem.

Amongst all over-the-counter migraine medicines, Naproxen is possibly the most dangerous and should be treated as such. Do not be afraid of using it, but consider consulting with your doctor before starting a cure and never use it if you are already taking prescription drugs.

Ibuprofen – OTC and dangerous

Another very popular drug that has been around forever is Ibuprofen known to generations of Americans under various brand names including Motrin, Nurofen, and many others. This is also a NSAID type of drug and can be used to address a variety of pains including headache, pains caused by inflammations, fevers, and migraines.

Science tells us that more than 60% of patients react to at least one of NSAIDs. It is encouraged to try out different drugs until one works for you. However, you should also be very careful when implementing a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug in your treatment plan since they can interact with prescription drugs and pose a significant danger on their own.

One of the most common adverse effects is heartburn. Just as many other NSAIDs, ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcer if used too often. To prevent such issues, it is recommended to use ibuprofen together with drugs that reduce the amount of stomach acid produced such as PPIs. Overdosing of ibuprofen is dangerous and may lead to heart failure. It is possible that other internal organs may suffer severe damage due to using ibuprofen in excessive quantities. Never exceed the recommended dose of ibuprofen.

When it comes to using NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen to treat migraines, it is crucial to avoid alcohol and using aspirin as it may increase the possibility of developing a stomach ulcer. Despite being available to the widest audience of patients, ibuprofen is a very dangerous drug that is sold without prescription meaning that you should be mindful when using it without any consultations with a trustworthy medical expert.


Over-the-counter drugs are sold without a prescription due to being relatively safe and not being addictive. However, it does not mean that there is not inherent danger to using them. All medications have their own merits and downsides. Some of the most popular and seemingly harmless OTC drugs can be extremely dangerous for certain individuals and in specific scenarios. Do not use them mindlessly and always consult with a doctor before starting a course of new drugs or using them together with other drugs.

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