Has a migraine ever gotten so bad that you’ve gone to the emergency room, or thought about going? If you’ve received a migraine treatment in a hospital setting, you may have received what is commonly called a migraine cocktail. The term migraine cocktail usually refers to a combination of medications given intravenously to treat an acute and severe migraine attack.
As with any other remedy, from non-invasive migraine glasses to pharmaceuticals, it’s best to educate yourself on migraine cocktails ahead of time. Then when the need arises, you’ll already know what to do.
So let’s take a closer look at migraine cocktails. We’ll talk about what might be in your migraine cocktail, the potential side effects, and what your other options might be.
What is a Migraine Cocktail?
A migraine cocktail usually refers to a combination of drugs administered by a doctor through an IV, though some people use the same term to refer to a set of over-the-counter pain medications, like triptans, NSAIDs, and antiemetics.
We’ll discuss the IV version first.
In an intravenous migraine cocktail, the medications your doctor chooses may vary depending on your medical history, current condition, and drug allergies. Any IV migraine cocktail could include some of the following:
- IV fluids to combat dehydration and potential side effects of the cocktail of medications
- IV steroids to reduce inflammation and pain, and help stave off a repeat attack in the coming days
- Triptans to combat pain and inflammation
- Ergot alkaloids which work in the same way as triptans
- Non-steroid anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) for pain
- Antiemetics for pain, nausea and vomiting
- IV valproic acid (Depakote), a seizure medication sometimes used to treat severe migraine attacks
- IV magnesium, shown help with migraine pain and aura
A IV migraine cocktail seems like it would bring immediate migraine relief by reducing pain and inflammation, but it could be an hour or more before symptoms improve.
IV Migraine Cocktail Side Effects
Any medication in a migraine cocktail could have individual side effects. Depending on the mixture of drugs administered, you could experience multiple or more intense side effects.
Some of the migraine cocktail IV side effects include steroids, triptans, antiemetics, ergot alkaloids, NSAIDs.
The side effects of intravenous steroids could include nausea and/or vomiting, dizziness, and insomnia.
When you’re given IV triptans, you could experience muscle tightness in the jaw, chest, or neck. There could also be aches, pains, and fatigue.
These may produce side effects of restlessness, muscle tics and tremors.
Side effects of intravenous ergot alkaloids could include upset stomach, vomiting, and sleeplessness.
Diarrhea, abdominal pain and stomach upset could occur with intravenous NSAIDs.
Is There an Over-the-Counter Migraine Cocktail?
While a migraine cocktail usually refers to something administered by a doctor, some may use the term to describe a combination of OTC medications. Most often, an OTC migraine cocktail is a mix of three drugs:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for both pain and inflammation
- Aspirin for pain relief by reducing prostaglandins
- Caffeine to narrow blood vessels, thought to decrease discomfort
Usually, an at-home migraine cocktail consists of 250 mg of both acetaminophen and aspirin, with 65 mg of caffeine. A 2005 study found that when used together, these ingredients provide significantly better headache relief than any of the individual ingredients alone.
One example of this OTC migraine cocktail is Excedrin Migraine or Excedrin Extra Strength.
OTC Migraine Cocktail Side Effects
This OTC migraine cocktail is a popular option for many migraine sufferers. However, some doctors may advise against it, due to some side effects associated with this combination of drugs. These include:
- Risk of headache due to medication overuse
- Sleeplessness or other concerns related to caffeine
- Stomach upset
- Abdominal pain
You should also be well informed about caffeine. By itself or in combination with other drugs, over-the-counter caffeine may cause insomnia, heart palpitations, dizziness, and headache.
Other OTC Alternatives
If you or your doctor are concerned about using the migraine cocktail described above, there are other OTC options. Doctors often suggest ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. For most people, ibuprofen and acetaminophen may safely be taken together and could be very effective.
However, since aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are all NSAIDs, they shouldn’t be taken within 8-12 hours of each other.
The Verdict on Migraine Cocktails
When migraine symptoms reach the point of needing immediate medical help, a migraine cocktail may be extremely effective. But as an intravenous treatment, it’s only for extreme cases.
If you choose to try an OTC version of a migraine cocktail for a less severe attack, be careful about which drugs you combine. Don’t take more than directed, and beware of the side effects. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which OTC medications are safe for you to take together, and what combinations to avoid.
Other Treatments and Remedies
If non-invasive migraine remedies and treatments are your mojo, you have plenty of options for easing your symptoms.
This article offers many suggestions for migraine relief products that could help you ward off an attack or provide relief after onset. One of those products is precision-tinted migraine glasses made by Axon Optics.
The glasses work by filtering out the types of light most likely to trigger a migraine attack. Updated research illustrates the effectiveness of our migraine glasses.
- 85% of users experience decreased headache impact
- Those users enjoy an average of 33% fewer headache days
Along with living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding migraine triggers, preventative measures like migraine glasses may help you reduce your dependence on prescription or OTC drugs, such as migraine cocktails.
Axon Optics migraine glasses ship for free in the US, and come with a 60-day free return window.