How To Stop Taking Excedrin

How To Stop Taking Excedrin

From my personal experience, this is how to stop taking Excedrin.

Medical Disclosure: Please consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before taking any advice discussed within this website and before starting or stopping any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program.

Before I say anything else, just know that I’m not a doctor. However, I’ve been to many doctors (including a neurologist), which is how I’ve finally managed to get to a point where I’m no longer dependent on Excedrin. This is my personal experience and I’m hoping it can help other people. I know how miserable it is to have a constant headache or migraine, and to feel like you’re always going to be addicted to Excedrin.

Woman With Headache

 

Backstory – Feel Free To Scroll Past This

When I was 10 years old, I went to the locker rooms to change after gym class. For some reason, I was the only one down there, which seems weird to me now, but that’s not really important. Anyway, the last thing I remember was tying my shoes. I woke up probably 10 feet from where I was, face down on the floor. My chin was busted open, I bit my tongue, and I had a huge bruise on my hip.

I ended up having to get 7 stitches (plus 2 on the inside) and a CAT scan. They said everything in my brain looked normal, and that maybe I had a heat stroke. I don’t remember being abnormally hot, so I have a hard time believing it was that. Still don’t know what happened, though.

I don’t remember exactly when I started getting constant headaches, but I know by the time I was 14, I had a migraine during a soccer game. It was so bad, that I was seeing spots all over the place, and I couldn’t differentiate the things I was seeing from the actual ball. It’s safe to say that I had migraines from at least then.

At some point, I went to the doctor again, and they told me to take something for my headaches as soon as I felt them coming on, that way it wouldn’t get any worse. So, that’s what I did. That’s what I continued to do for years. Even when I felt the slightest headache, I took Excedrin. Most of the time, it got rid of it right away. Eventually, it got to where I had to take it multiple times a day.

Right now, I’m almost 23 weeks pregnant and I really didn’t want to keep taking medication every single day. A few weeks ago, I finally got in to see a neurologist. That was something that I probably should’ve done about 20 years ago, but here we are. At least I’ve got it under control now.

Excedrin Rebound Headaches

This is a real thing. Excedrin Migraine contains acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. If you’ve been wondering, “can caffeine cause headaches?” or “can caffeine cause migraines,” the answer is… in a way, yes. Caffeine is a trigger and people become addicted to caffeine. With me, I think what happened, was that my body was so used to always having caffeine in it, that when I went too long without it, I got a rebound headache.

Pretty much every morning, I’d wake up with a headache. It makes sense for those to have been rebound headaches, because I’d just went 7-8 hours without Excedrin.

Can You Take Excedrin Migraine While Pregnant?

No. I did for probably the first 10-12 weeks of this pregnancy, and while I don’t think it did any damage, apparently it can cause miscarriages, so I would advise against it. Since Excedrin Migraine contains aspirin and aspirin is a blood thinner, you shouldn’t take it. I’m considering myself lucky for taking it that long and not suffering any consequences.

You can ask your doctor about this, but that’s what I did. I see like 10 different OB’s, and they very rarely give me the same answer to a question (annoying). This is why I ended up taking Excedrin way longer than I should have while pregnant.

One doctor thought that because it was acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine, it was fine, because they commonly put pregnant women with high blood pressure on aspirin, anyway. However, after taking it those 10-12 weeks, I went back and saw another doctor.

They do prescribe aspirin for that reason, but it’s at a much lower dosage than the amount that’s in Excedrin Migraine. There is way too much aspirin in Excedrin Migraine for pregnant women. The first doctor failed to mention that.

Headaches in pregnancy are common, and if you have migraines already, it can either make them better or worse. For me, it got worse. I was always taking Excedrin, and it wasn’t even working. In the first 18 weeks of my pregnancy, I stayed home from work three times because of migraines. They were so bad that they were causing me to throw up.

I’m sure part of it was because I’m pregnant and my hormones were a mess, but there’s still part of me that thinks my Excedrin withdrawal was worse than ever at this point.

Excedrin Migraine vs Excedrin Tension Headache

As far as I know, unless my doctors were wrong again, Excedrin Tension Headache is okay to take while pregnant. The only difference between Excedrin Migraine and Excedrin Tension Headache, is that Excedrin Tension Headache does not contain aspirin.

So yes, it’s probably “okay” to take it, but I’d try not to, if you can help it. It’s only going to make you experience the wonderful Excedrin side effects known as caffeine withdrawal and rebound headaches. Besides, loading up on acetaminophen and caffeine while pregnant still probably isn’t the best thing, either.

How To Treat Rebound Headaches

Like I said, I finally went to a neurologist. I’d been to “regular” doctors before, and they would prescribe me all different kinds of medication – Topamax, Imitrex, Amitriptyline, Fioricet, Propranolol, and some other things that I can’t even remember the name of. They never once said I was having rebound headaches, but the neurologist finally did!

She said I needed to quit taking Excedrin and anything with acetaminophen (Tylenol). She suggested weaning myself off of it, and while you could absolutely create some type of schedule for yourself where you slowly decreased the amount you took per day, I just stopped completely. On Thursday, I went to the neurologist and didn’t take it again after that.

I expected detoxing from Excedrin to be awful, but I expected the worst of it to be between Friday – Sunday. I don’t work weekends, so as long as I could suffer through Friday, I was fully prepared to just lay in bed all weekend. She even prescribed me something to “knock me out” and fall asleep faster, so that I wouldn’t have to be awake and in pain. I forget the name of it, but Unisom would work for this, too.

Because I was terrified of being completely knocked out, I actually only took 1/4th of whatever pill she prescribed for me. I hate being super drowsy, and my headaches never got that bad, so I didn’t take it again. I did take something else, though.

Supplements For Migraines

She suggested that I take 400mg of magnesium and 300mg b2 (riboflavin) daily. This could very well be what made everything less miserable than I expected it to be. I have these chewable magnesium tablets from CVS, which actually are kind of delicious. I ordered a bottle of b2 online because they didn’t sell it at CVS, for some reason. The tablets are 100mg each, so I take 3 of them.

Caffeine Withdrawal Treatment

I don’t really know which ingredient in Excedrin is causing rebound headaches, but if I had to guess, I’d guess that the biggest problem with it is the caffeine. During the first few days of my Excedrin withdrawal, I did start to feel headaches coming on.

Under any other circumstance, I would’ve normally reached for Tylenol, but during this time, I grabbed a can of Pepsi. Not Coke. Don’t ask me why it made a difference, but it did. Pepsi would make the headache go away, but Coke would not.

Obviously, I didn’t want to start drinking Pepsi every day, so this is where I really had to do my “weaning.” Maybe my caffeine addiction wasn’t that terrible, because in the beginning, I could usually get away with only one can a day. Sometimes, it was two cans, but never more than that.

Whenever I drank two, I felt like I “had a problem,” and tried very hard to drink less the next day. Finally, it got to where I just kept a bottle in the refrigerator, and if I felt like I needed it, I’d just chug a few gulps and be done with it.

Now, I don’t need it anymore.

Rebound Headache Recovery Time

I can’t give you a real answer for this. It’s going to be different for everyone, but I feel like if you can go “cold turkey,” it will probably be a lot quicker than if you don’t. In total, if you count the days I weaned myself off caffeine, my recovery time was two weeks.

Conclusion

This has been a very long post, so if you’re looking for a summary, here is what I recommend:

  • Visit a neurologist to make sure you do, in fact, have rebound headaches.
  • Take 400 mg of magnesium and 300 mg of b2
  • Take a multivitamin, but one that doesn’t contain magnesium, because you’re going to get enough from the magnesium supplement.
  • Drink enough water, eat enough, and frequently. Don’t add hunger headaches to your problem.
  • Stop taking Excedrin Migraine and/or Excedrin Tension Headache immediately.
  • Stop taking Tylenol immediately.
  • Really, if you can help it, don’t take any kind of pain reliever.
  • Keep Pepsi on hand and drink that when you start to feel like you need to take a pain reliever.
  • Eventually, wean yourself off caffeine.
  • If for some reason nothing is working, wait until you get home and take Unisom (or some kind of sleep aid). Go to bed and sleep through it.
  • Give it at least two weeks.

There! I hope that helps someone. If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them, but again, I’m no doctor or medical expert of any kind. If there’s been anything in particular that has helped you with headaches, rebound headaches, or migraines, leave it in the comments below!

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Lynneah Bennett
    July 20, 2018 at 11:38 am

    I used to only take excedrin for headaches, like you said, because it has caffiene! I ended up taking too much and it led to stomach ulcers. Ever since that happened, I haven’t taken the medication. Good informative post!

  • Reply
    Sami Summers
    July 22, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Oh, my goodness. I am a fan of Excedrin, but I’ve not taken it for years. My biggest problem for this pregnancy has been with ibuprofen, which my doctor told me I couldn’t take after 24 weeks. I can’t imagine your struggle, but hopefully you’re finding some type of relief. May you continue to have a happy and healthy pregnancy!

  • Reply
    Dana
    July 23, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    I was so reliant on excedrin for so long! It gave me terrible stomach aches though so I had to find another solution. Usually a shower and some time in a dark room, as well as massaging my temples helped a bit, with a little coffee. I had no idea about the rebound headaches!

  • Reply
    KrisBeeMama
    July 25, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    I took excedrine migraine for a week while pregnant after consulting with my OBGYN. I was told you never take it after 20 weeks though consult your dr first!!

  • Reply
    Wendy Lemeric
    July 25, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    I’ve only taken Advil for that one year when I experienced migraines. But after deciding I don’t want to take anymore (i’m not reallty a fan of taking medicines) I visited a neurologist and he prescribed me with something stronger intended for migraines. I forgot what the name was that was like 6 years ago. I haven’t had migraines since.

    • Reply
      rachelcorinne
      January 4, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Was it Topamax? I was prescribed that for a while.

      • Reply
        lisa
        February 17, 2020 at 12:05 pm

        Topamax is an anticonvulsant (to help with epilepsy) that is also used to help with migraines and a few other health issues.

        • Reply
          rachelcorinne
          February 17, 2020 at 3:20 pm

          I took that for a while, but had HORRIBLE side effects. Have you taken it?

  • Reply
    Brandi
    August 9, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Hey
    Just wondering how long it was before you could tell the supplements were working?

    • Reply
      rachelcorinne
      August 9, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      I would give it at least three weeks. They could very well be three miserable weeks, but it could take at least that long!

  • Reply
    Jeremy Frietsch
    January 7, 2020 at 6:31 am

    I’ve taken Excedrin migraine since 2006 and yes I have had problems with it. When it works it’s great but when it backfires it’s awful. I stopped taking it in 2015 and was out sick from work for three days and spent one night constantly vomiting. I was off of for it for around four years then I went through a divorce and job change and found me taking it again. Now I’m stopping it for good. The withdrawal is bad horrible pain tried a can of coke and I think that made it worse. You are right sleeping seems to be the only thing to help and once your body rids of it you see an immediate difference and you feel a lot better. Once I am fully off of it I’ll need to find a substitute for when I do have a migraine not sure what that will be. But it was the only thing that worked for me but clearly my body is finally had it’s share of it.

    • Reply
      rachelcorinne
      January 9, 2020 at 8:09 am

      Have you ever went to see a neurologist? Or even your primary care doctor can prescribe things. I’ve been prescribed triptans for migraines. Maxalt works the best for me, but Imitrex will also work a lot of the time. As far as “preventative” migraine meds, I started taking Amitriptyline before bed every night a few weeks ago. I haven’t had a migraine since then. Also, if you have any feeling at all that something may be wrong inside your brain, I would ask for a CT scan! I had to go to the ER a few months ago, and they found out that I have bilateral artery dissection. I kind of suspect that I’ve had this for a long time, and it has contributed to my migraines.

  • Reply
    Steph
    January 24, 2020 at 6:22 am

    Did you have any other side effects when you quit taking excedrin? I was taking multiple goody’s headache powders a day and I stopped and I’ve been taking B2, but I have been breaking out horribly. I don’t know if it’s related to either stopping taking the powders or the supplement. Did you experience anything like that?

    • Reply
      rachelcorinne
      February 6, 2020 at 9:05 pm

      Nope, I didn’t have anything like that. I’m a little late replying to this. Have those side effects gone away?

  • Reply
    Somer
    February 7, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    I am totally dependent on BC powder daily, sometimes twice a day and if I don’t take that I take Excedrin migraine. I can’t imagine weening myself off. I would just need to sleep all day and that gives me headaches. I wake in the morning with a headache and even after taking something it’s still a full one all day. Idk what to do. I have expressed this to my GP but he does nothing about it.

    • Reply
      rachelcorinne
      February 13, 2020 at 11:02 am

      Since he isn’t doing anything, maybe you could ask him to refer you to a neurologist. A neurologist should be able to prescribe something for you. You may have to try a few different things, but hopefully you’ll find something that works for you eventually! I’m finding that taking Amitriptyline daily and Maxalt as needed is working way better than anything else ever has.

  • Reply
    lisa
    February 17, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    I used to take around 1000 mg of magnesium a day when my migraines were really bad. As long as you’re healthy, your body dispels the excess. Just a heads up, there are different kinds of magnesium and oxalate magnesium goes through faster than the others. Look for other kinds at health food stores. First time users will also want to have easy access to a bathroom the first couple days taking it.

    • Reply
      rachelcorinne
      February 17, 2020 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks for the info! I’m going to try to start taking more and see if I notice a difference.

  • Reply
    Anna Maria Corino
    April 10, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks Rachel! This was very informative! I’ve suffered from migraines my whole life and when I was in my 20’s, they would make my blood pressure go up. At that point, they added blood pressure meds. The only time I have not taken excedrin was when I was pregnant. I would take tylenol and just suffer through, but I felt my best when I was pregnant. I have been on Topomax but came off when my nutritionist put me on magnesium. It’s funny because I just seem to forget the basics… thanks for the reminder! Unfortunately, I went back to taking excedrin. I’m on day two of not taking it and really have to make a serious effort this time. I’ve had stomach issues too. Thanks again!

  • Reply
    Inga Armenta
    April 22, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    I’ve had migraines and was prescribed topamax. When the headaches subsided my neurologist decreased the medication and they came back with a vengeance. That’s why I took extra strength Excedrin, which helped get rid of them. I took it daily. He told me I was having rebound headaches and to stop taking it. But the other meds he prescribed for me just wasn’t cutting it. Now that Excedrin is off the shelf I rely on generic brand headache pain relievers which take 3 times as long to alleviate my headache which occurs every day.

  • Reply
    Brian
    May 3, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for this article. Very helpful. I’m on day 2 of no painkillers whatsoever and so far so good. I’m taking the magnesium, B2 and Pepsi. So far the headaches have been mild and bearable. Did you notice extreme tiredness when stopping the Excedrin? I am and I don’t even feel like getting out of bed. Sleeping a lot which I guess is a good thing. I’m assuming it’s from the lack of caffeine. I was taking up to 6-8 pills everyday so that’s a lot of caffeine.

    • Reply
      Rupali Embry
      August 13, 2020 at 10:14 pm

      I’ve tried to stop taking Excedrin before and it’s the tiredness that was the worst. I’m pretty sure it’s the lack of caffeine causing it. I don’t know if that goes away at some point since I succumbed to taking it again. 🤷🏼‍♀️ I want to try stopping again though so I hope it works! Did it go away for you?

  • Reply
    Brian
    August 16, 2020 at 9:33 am

    No, I went back on it after a couple of attempts due to bad pain. It’s tough! Trying again.

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