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Poll: Many headache sufferers overuse painkillers

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YONKERS, N.Y. — Chronic headache sufferers often experience "rebound headaches" by overdoing it with nonprescription pain relievers, research by Consumer Reports finds.

Current estimates indicate that one in four adults exceeds the recommended dose on nonprescription pain medications — such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB and generics) and naproxen (Aleve and generics) — and, according to a recent Consumer Reports online poll of 47,283 subscribers, even more people (31%) admit to not carefully following the directions on the label.

"It’s not uncommon for people to experience medication overuse headaches," stated Dr. Orly Avitzur, a medical adviser for Consumer Reports Health and a practicing neurologist.

The online survey also suggests that people don’t consider nonprescription pain medication to be as "serious" as prescription drugs. "It often comes as a surprise to my patients when I tell them that overuse of an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin may be causing their headaches," Avitzur explained. "We all keep these OTCs in our medicine cabinets, and I think many of us are so accustomed to them that we may underestimate the risk of overmedicating."

According to another recent Consumer Reports survey of more than 6,000 subscribers, 73% said they kept acetaminophen (Tylenol and generics) in their medicine cabinets. The same percentage kept ibuprofen on hand, and 69% had aspirin in their medicine cabinets.

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