Monday, June 4, 2007

Nicotine and Migraines?

How do you know when you are coming to the end of your migraine rope? When you see a commercial on television for nicotine patches, the kind people use to quit smoking, and you wonder if nicotine patches might make your head feel better during a migraine.

I have never been a smoker so I don’t know how it makes you feel. Still, I’ve seen many smokers looking pretty relaxed and happy with cigarettes between their fingers. There must be something to it.

I decided to call one of my smoking friends to ask her a couple questions before I headed to the drugstore.

Some of my questions included:

“Does nicotine actually give you cancer or is it the actual smoke?”

“Does nicotine speed you up or slow you down?”

To which she responded with a question of her own,

“WHY?”

I told her my theory. She told me there was no way I was going to the store to buy nicotine patches to help with my headaches.

“Fine,” I said. “They are probably too expensive anyway.”

39 comments:

Marie said...

I can't imagine it would help anyway. I used to smoke a lot, but after I quit smoking a get a lot less migraines than I used to.

Migraineur said...

Oh, I think that's a really bad idea. I don't think nicotine causes cancer (I think it's the other chemicals in cigarette smoke), but it is very bad for your cardiovascular system. Did you ever do that experiment in high school where you put a drop of nicotine on a slide with a water flea and look at it under the microscope? It's scary to watch its little water flea heart pound pound pound ...

Plus, if migraine really is a vascular disease, why would you want to mess with your blood vessels?

Finally, many people throw up the first time they smoke a cigarette. I'm pretty sure that's because of the nicotine. Aren't you nauseated enough?

I understand your desperation, though.

Migraine Chick said...

I never did the water flea experiment in high school. It sounds pretty scary. Poor water flea. I didn't know nicotine messed with your blood vessels like that, and I am already nauseated enough. Thank you so much for the advice.

Joanna said...

My 1st headache specialist said that if it was legal in this state, he would have started talking to me about prescribing medicinal marijuana. I don't smoke anything, and I had asthma as a child, but it would have been interesting if he had been able to prescribe - if I would have gone through with it or not...

Anonymous said...

I live in The Netherlands and marijuana is available. I smoked it for about 6 months against my migraines and it worked for a while, but after about 4 months the headaches returned, so I quit it.

Anonymous said...

Migraines are generally helped by vaso-restrictors like Imitrex, ergotamine, DHE, etc. and I too have considered whether nicotine (gum form) could help a migarin attack once its in full swing since it is also a vaso-restrictor... has anyone tried this and had good luck? I'm a little desperate also. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

In theory it should work. I am currently on antidepressants because they are vaso-restrictors and my doctor used to prescribe high dose caffeine pills for active migraines. Since nicotine is another vaso-restrictor, it should work similarly to the caffeine. (was somewhat effective but i was WIRED for hours). I have heard that LSD is great for migraines, and antidepressants can be used to counteract the LSD effects. Not sure if you're willing to go that route though.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a smoker, but occasionaly my husband will by cigars. This past summer I had a migrane while we were camping (an occasion where my husband bought cigars). I smoked a cigar and definately noticed a difference. I think there is proof in this theory, I'd be interested to know if the gum would work. That's why my search on Yahoo led me to you!

Larkin said...

Haha. I totally came across this in google search because I am really at my end for the migraines! I get them every day and despite taking a drug to "prevent" them it still keeps happening. So I guess this helps me in answering my question- say no to smoking it would probably be another change that my head would be pissed about anyway.

DeadLiver said...

I know I'm resurrecting an old post, but I found this today and I'd like to report my own experience. I had a migraine at work, and I've hit my limit of pills I can take for it for the day (I'm limited due to a liver transplant) one of my buddies handed me an e-cigarette and told me to try it. A few puffs, and as I got a mild buzz from the nicotine, my headache went away. Since then, I've added an e-cig into my "migraine kit" that I keep in the car. Consistently works, although the effects are rather short lived (an hour or so.)

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Anonymous said...

almost all migraine meds are vasoconstrictors, so what would they do to a flea? an overdose of nicoteine is lethal, but so can use of any medication be lethal. in looking at this issue myself I found that smoking can actually cause a migraine. this is because migraines seem to be able to be brought on by an over vasoconstriction in the body. your body responds by overdilating the blood vessels, hence the pain. I am currently using a smokeless tobacco to alleviate a migraine, and it's working better than any prescription med i've tried, including narcotics. it seems to me nicotine may be a helpful aid for some people who are not addicted after a migraine starts, but one certainly should think long and hard about the can of worms they are opening.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from experience, nicotine withdrawal can trigger migraines, but I don't think a non-smoker on patches would get much relief. It would probably just make you sick.

Re: cannabis, this definitely works for me. I would suggest using a very small amount daily as a regimen to keep the headaches away. For me it prevents them from ever starting, rather than just treating the pain. I eat a piece of a pot cookie before bed at night so I don't have to deal with being foggy at work. It wears off by morning and I haven't had a migraine in 4 years :) It's probably not for everyone but for me it beats prescription triptans that make my heart have palpitations.

Anonymous said...

FYI- it does work. I'm a nonsmoker and have tried it a few times. The first time I left the patch on too long and got terribly sick. I've only used them 3 or 4 times in the past 10 years when my headache was so unbearable I wanted to put my head through a wall. I learned from the first time not to leave the patch on more than 10 or 15 minutes. Doesn't completely kick the headache but definitely has helped me in the past at least reduce mine to bearable.

MGD said...

i might in the reverse group. i was GETTING migraines (2 a week) from the patches. I have to cut the highesy dose (21 mig) in half, i guese smaller doses (9-11). so in the form of smoking treatment, nicotine did not help allevitae my head from the thrashing

Anonymous said...

I started chewing nicotine gum (I've never been a smoker) for a different reason and over the past several months have noticed I've stopped getting migraines. Prior to chewing nicotine gum I was having at least some migraine symptoms (visual aura, nausea) almost daily. Haven't had the spots in front of my eyes for months now.

Anonymous said...

I dip for migraines, I get horrible cluster migraines on the frontal lobe which cause optical inversion for me. If I put in a dip of tobacco, the migraine subsides to a bearable level. This is the only reason I started chewing, and it works incredibly for me.
Cheers

Anonymous said...

i use snuff, and smoke cigars. i find that the nicotine (when not totally overdone to the point of being laid out) does help the pain a bit. also, try feeling along the edge of the top of your eye socket till you find a groove, and press it for ten second periods (gently at first, increasing in pressure each time till you find a sweet spot or decide its not going to work). its a pressure point thats supposed to release endorphins.

Anonymous said...

Despite wat you would no it dosnt help...it while you are using them but the second you stop the migraines will increase 2 fold...i get them everyday no dose and anacin help mine i havnt had any since

Feeling Better said...

I used to have Migraines twice a week. Some so bad that I actually lost my vision temporarily. six months ago, after extensive research, I bought an E-cigarette. I knew that Nicotine was being researched as a treatment for prevention of migraines, so I took my chances. I began using the E-cig several times a day. I have had ONE migraine since then. ONE! My blood pressure has raised slightly. I have to admit that my doctor is annoyed with me because I already had Tachycardia. But it is getting no worse. I still use the same dosage of medicine for it. The Nicotine does raise my heart rate a bit if I use it too much, but I keep an eye on it and cut back when I need to. I have had no other ill effects. It has changed my life. I cannot say what would happen if I stopped, but I have gone a full 24 hours or more without nicotine and nothing happened. So if withdrawal happens when you quit, it happens after a longer period without. I also save a ton of money by using the e-cig. I payed $40.00 for the starter set and about $10.00 a month for the E-liquid used with it. It comes in pleasant flavors, some that taste nothing like tobacco. So if you are not a smoker, you won't be totally grossed out by the taste. Just as a word of warning though, it has given me a bit of a problem with congestion. But I'll trade a little congestion for two severe migraines any day!

Anonymous said...

ex smoker, been off cigs 28 yrs, I keep smallest dose of nic gum available - use 1/2 sometimes only 1/4 of the piece of gum and it takes my headache away fast. Don't need it daily, don't even need it weekly. Smokers get withdrawal, but a ex or non-smoker on occassion reduced dose shouldn't become addicted to begin with. Moderation and smallest gum dose cut in 1/4 or 1/2 works for me.

Anonymous said...

Nicotine causes blood vessels in the brain to constrict, which contributes to headaches. Anybody who smokes and gets headaches relieved by smoking or ingesting nicotine are simply feeling withdrawal headaches. Marijuana causes blood vessels to expand, which relieves the pressure of a headache, which is why it would be recommended.

Ashley said...

I have had brain surgery and have several cavernous angiomas. I have also had migraines since I was three. I recently started smoking electronic cigarrettes and they have significantly reduced my headaches. Hope this helps.

cobb fish said...

Yes yes yes, nicotine definately helps some types of migraines. I am an every day sufferer of migraines since I was 12. I've tried all drugs available through prescription from beta blockers to many different antidepressants, some of the antidepressants worked wonderfully for the migraines but altered my personality in a bad way. My husband is a nicotine user and out of desperation i started chewing, sure enough, my daily migraines vanished. I don't like chewing, ewe gross, so I went to the gum. I take the 4mg gum, and believe it or not, it works, with none of the side effects of the prescriptions. ($7 "off brand" box of gum last me about a week) However, nicotine gum can increase my chances of mouth cancer, but the pain and vision problems from migraines are unbearable. As a last resort, I've succumbed to nicotine gum so I can live. Just a warning, I'm female, and I do still get "monthly" hormone migraines that last for about three days, the nicotine does NOT work for the hormone related migraines. I'm just waiting for menopause to get rid of those ones. But, for the daily migraines, I'm an extreme case where they completely ruined my life, the nicotine works. It's very addictive and if you only get one migraine a week don't do it, but if your like me and get them every day/night nonstop, then this may be a solution. Only as a last resort! If you think mouth cancer is an ok side effect and blood pressure & heart rate increase .... which for me, I'm willing to take the risk. FYI I hae super low 97/60 blood pressure normally and it raises it to about 115/75. Good luck migraine sufferers! We have to live!!!

Anonymous said...

What nicotine does influence is one of two types of the enzyme MAOI that determines how long neurotransmitters stay in the synaptic cleft. MAO inhibitors were among the first generation of antidepressants during the 50s but then along came serotonin based antidepressants that some use to also treat pain. By the same notion St Johns Wort, piracetam, feverfew and can also help however recently a theory claiming that certain minerals are possibly lacking

There are several theories on migraines however some propose depression and migraines are due to low serotonin, hormone problems and such. Do your research on the triggers such as alcohol, and heavily aged cheese, specifically old cheddar

Anonymous said...

Funny. I found this thread because I too am a non-smoker with migraines and feeling one coming on. I was looking at my boyfriends electronic cigarette and wondering if it would help. Definitely at the end of my rope as I can't stand the smell of smoke, and have no desire to pick up an unhealthy habit.
I hate migraines!!!

Anonymous said...

I have been suffering from chronic migraines for years, 20 - 25 a month. I have gotten myself down to about 8-10 a month with a cocktail of drugs from my neurologist but still as many of you suffers know that is unbearable. My husband, a smoker just recently stopped and switched to vaping (or using e cigarettes) and I heard about the possibility of nicotine helping my migraines. I have never been a smoker but decided to try as I was in a migraine cycle and it has absolutely stopped this migraine cycle in its tracks. I will absolutely be vaping (using e cigarettes) to help with the migraines. So much better then being on all those mind numbing pain meds.

krellies said...

I started smoking (cigarettes) about 3 years ago. I noticed within 3 months or so that my migraines were dramatically reduced; about 2 per month, and I blame hormones for those migraines. :)
I tried quitting smoking and found that my headaches were back up at almost 10 per month. After much trial and error I have found that 2 smokes per day will keep my migraines away. I have not tried any nic patches or gum as I feel I can't regulate it enough. E-Cigs may be an option!

Anonymous said...

I started using an electronic cigarette about 2 years ago. I've migraine free ever since. Nicotine raises your blood pressure, but otherwise is safe. It's mildly addictive. Scientists have been researching nicotine for years. They are now researching it for migraine prevention, Parkinson's disease and adhd in children. Not medical advise on my part, just sharing my story. I hope you've found relief since this post was written.

gfid said...

I've lived w migraines all my life, ( nearly 60 years) and consulted w many doctors - some very helpful, others not so much. From a pediatric neurologist I learned that childhood migraine often presents as stomache ache, something I experienced a lot of. Children who experience motion sickness are also more likely to become adult migraine sufferers. What's happening in our gut is directly linked to brain health, something Chinese medicine has known for thousands of years, and western medicine is only beginning to explore. Many women also find that migraine cycles are linked to their menstrual cycle.

Some foods are known migraine triggers, including aged cheeses, chocolate, red wine & alcohol in general, as well as processed foods containing nitrites and / or MSG. (Particularly processed meats) I've found that foods with artificial color and / or flavoring are also triggers for me. I've learned to carefully read the labeling on everything I buy, and keep my diet as free of chemical additives as possible. Perfumes and artificial scents can also be triggers, as is smoke of any kind. This is different for everyone. Your migraine triggers will not be the same as someone else's.

I've tried numerous prescription meds, with varying levels of success. Not many of them worked for me. The best one for me was Cafergot, which mixes ergotamine and caffeine. Ergotamine used over long periods can cause serious liver and kidney damage, however, so my Dr will no longer prescribe it for me. The best over the counter drugs I've found are extra-strength pain killers ( i use acetaminophen) taken with gravol. The dosage I use is 3 XS Tylenol w 2 gravol tablets. best to ake a nap then, as i get very dopey and sleepy. i take this every 4 hours as needed.a cup of strong coffee drunk @ the same time increases efficacy. The pediatric neurologist previously mentioned recommended the pain killer/gravol combination. (there's that gut / brain connection again) the caffeine in coffee helps, but i then get a migraine when i stop drinking it. there's also an herbal remedy called Migraide, which I get from my health food store, which gives relief. Nicotine patches also help, but can give me vertigo in large doses, and the adhesive used causes me skin inflamation at the point of contact. My best dosage of this has proven to be 'step 2' in the three phase type. I peel off only half of the adhesive covering and apply for the prescribed 24 hours, then remove it, peel off the other side and re-apply to a new patch of skin for nother 24 hours. Don't cut them in half, as this affects how the nicotine is released. I find the nic patches act more gradually, without the 'wired' feeling of the caffeine or the dopeyness of the gravol, and I don't fet the withdrawal headache that caffeine gives.

Long hot baths also give some relief, or hot packs applied to forehead or base of the skull, where the back of my head joins my neck. These work best when I can take a nap as well.

The endorphins released from regular exercise are also helpful, so I've learned to keep physically active. I find intense activity, like swimming laps, cycling or playing racquetball to be more effective than just walking. When I'm physically active I get fewer migraines.

This has required some permanent lifestyle changes, making regular exercise and 'clean' eating the greater part of my therapy. Drugs alone do not eliminate the problem, but only temporarily hide the symptoms. We need to look at our overall health and wellness, not just eliminate the pain of the moment.

Miakoda C. said...

I use nicotine via vapor. It is definately taking some of the agony out of my migraine today. So much so that I can look at my phone screen without wanting to die.

Brianna Brantner said...

I get severe migraines and I have a heart condition that causes me to have low b/p so I get headaches alllllll the time. I'm on a beta blocker for my heart and that seemed to help with the migraines and headaches for a while but then they came back. My brother is a smoker and suggested I take a few puffs off his cig. I had never smoked in my life but I was in pain so I didn't care if it killed me I was gunna try it. IT WORKED!! IN like 45 seconds! I didn't want to smoke because of it causing cancer sooooo I looking into ecigs/vaping. I bought a vision spinner mod for vaping and ejuice for it on Mt Baker vapor and you can choose your nicotine dosage. It works great!! So thankful!

Clifford Gibson said...

I stared chewing nicotine gum about a year ago for reasons unrelated to migraines. I generally have symptoms of migraine from mild nausea to full-blown classic migraine with aura on an almost daily basis.

I noticed after I had been chewing the gum for a while (not sure when it occurred to me—maybe a month or two), that I wasn't having migraines and can do things that would normally trigger migraine (bright lights, etc.). It's made a big difference in my life.

I'm trying to be a little more scientific about it now—I have no idea at what dose the nicotine is effective. 4 pieces of gum a day? 12? 20? I have no idea. I'm currently chewing about 12 pieces of 2mg per day.

Does anyone have any data on this?

(I'm been a sufferer of migraines since age 17. That's 47 years.)

Clifford Gibson said...

I stared chewing nicotine gum about a year ago for reasons unrelated to migraines. I generally have symptoms of migraine from mild nausea to full-blown classic migraine with aura on an almost daily basis.

I noticed after I had been chewing the gum for a while (not sure when it occurred to me—maybe a month or two), that I wasn't having migraines and can do things that would normally trigger migraine (bright lights, etc.). It's made a big difference in my life.

I'm trying to be a little more scientific about it now—I have no idea at what dose the nicotine is effective. 4 pieces of gum a day? 12? 20? I have no idea. I'm currently chewing about 12 pieces of 2mg per day.

Does anyone have any data on this?

(I'm been a sufferer of migraines since age 17. That's 47 years.)

Jacob Wood said...

Actually when u have a dull or headache feeling. I dip (chewing tobacco) or cigarettes helps too but anyways when you smoke or dip during a headache. You will get a strong hell of a buzz but soon when the buzz calms down the headache goes away with it too. Idk y. But I had a headache before. Smoked a cigarette. Got a buzz and my headache was gone.

pandorla said...

I just bought a migraine treatment online called mycratine and when it arrived I was surprised to see that nicotine was the main ingredient so I don't think your hypothesis is too off base. However when I search for migraine and nicotine together the most hits I get are actually about how nicotine withdrawal can cause migraines. In light of this it seems like if you were going to try this (and you're not a smoker) you would want to try the really low dose (7mg or step III) patch that slowly releases nicotine into your blood stream over 24 hours and just switch it over every 24 hours. That way you don't risk triggering a migraine from withdrawal.
The good news is that nicotine in it's pure form is not as addictive or carcinogenic as nicotine in tobacco. But it still seems like this method could have many potential down sides. Firstly continuous use would get very costly after a while, and secondly you are really just delaying the inevitable because more than likely your migraines will come back with a vengeance if you stop. For these reasons this seems more like a short term solution for someone who just can't cope and needs to wait for a doctors visit or the like.

pandorla said...

The one thing I know for sure helps me is smoking marijuana. However it's not a very practical day to day solution because many of the things I want to do in my day that migraines inhibit are also not the greatest things to be doing while high, (work, school, etc.) This is why I am hopeful about Mary's Medicinal's patches. She has patches that are lower THC but still have a lot of the cannibinoids that are so useful for medical purposes and they release slowly into the blood stream over 12 hours. I think this would be perfect! Some major issues include the fact that it's only available in Washington and Colorodo at the moment (unless you have a medical card) and it costs 12 dollars a patch!(probably cheaper for those with a medical card but I don't know)

Anonymous said...

hey .. i just randomly found this blog. weening off topirimate...uuugh. I just made the connection between nicotine and migraines. My dr. in retarded and knows nothing. told me i know more than he does baahaha.. i digress...I'm just in the process of quitting smoking , which does really suck when you have a migraine. makes it waaay worse.. I just got a handy dandy e-cig and tested it out... cant say for sure if it worked to ease the pain , i swear nothing does, but i didn't make it worse.