Overuse of common painkillers to get rid of a headache can make the condition worse, a conference in Dublin was told yesterday.
Thousands of Irish people who pop too many of the pills from supermarkets and pharmacies are unaware the "cure" is the cause of their chronic headache.
The problem was highlighted by international experts at the conference to mark European Migraine Day of Action in Trinity College.
Audrey Craven, president of the European Headache Alliance and the Migraine Association of Ireland, which brought the event to Ireland said : "This year's theme, 'When the Cure becomes the Cause', will form the basis of publications and events throughout Europe and captures the message we want to get across."
Overuse of pain-relief medication can lead to a form of chronic headache. As the body gets used to the medication it craves it more -- and when the effects wear off a headache is triggered.
This leaves the sufferer reaching for more tablets. But the reality is they are trapped in a vicious circle and taking medication for a headache which the pills are causing in the first place.
The conference was told that all simple analgesics -- especially those with narcotic content and probably the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ergotamine and caffeine -- are implicated.
Low doses of the painkillers taken daily are worse than taking large doses weekly.
Experts said the only cure for a "medication overuse headache" is complete withdrawal -- and in some cases patients may require hospital care.
Around four in 10 suffer relapse and need to be treated as an inpatient.