JOURNAL ARTICLE

Combined pharmacological and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for probable medication overuse headache: a pilot study

M Altieri, R Di Giambattista, L Di Clemente, D Fagiolo, E Tarolla, A Mercurio, E Vicenzini, L Tarsitani, G L Lenzi, M Biondi, V Di Piero
Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache 2009, 29 (3): 293-9
19220310
We studied the effects of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) and pharmacological therapy in 26 consecutive patients with probable medication overuse headache (pMOH). Patients underwent a standard in-patient detoxification protocol, lasting a mean of 7 days. Eleven patients overused non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), five a combination of NSAIDs and triptans, four triptans, four a combination of NSAIDs, and three triptans and ergot derivates. Preventive therapy was initiated during detoxification. The STPP protocol comprised the Brief Psychodynamic Investigation (BPI) and psychoanalysis-inspired psychotherapy. All patients (groups A and B) underwent the BPI and pharmacological therapy. Half of the patients (group B) also not randomly underwent psychoanalysis-inspired psychotherapy. We found a significant interaction between time and group for headache frequency and medication intake. At 12-month follow-up, a statistically greater decrease in headache frequency and medication intake was observed in group B than in group A (P = 0.0108 and P = 0.0097, respectively). The relapse rate was much lower in group B patients at both 6 and 12 months [15.3%, odds ratio (OR) 0.11, P = 0.016, and 23%, OR 0.18, P = 0.047, respectively] than in group A. The risk of developing chronic migraine (CM) during follow-up was higher in group A than in group B at 6 (OR 2.0, P = 0.047) and 12 months (OR 2.75, P = 0.005). Our study suggests that STPP in conjunction with drug withdrawal and prophylactic pharmacotherapy relieves headache symptoms in pMOH, reducing both long-term relapses and the burden of CM.

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