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.
UPDATE AS OF AUGUST 21, 2021
At some point, I’ll update this entire blog. For now, I’ll give you an update because I know this post gets a lot of traffic, so I don’t want you to read a bunch of old advice (see below). I’ll try to keep it short.
In October 2020 (after this post was written), I ended up with bilateral vertebral artery dissection. I still have no idea how that happened, but it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. The pain was mostly in my neck and the base of my skull, but it hurt so bad, that it would cause migraines constantly.
My doctor prescribed everything for the pain and nothing worked. I decided to try Amitriptyline just to see if it would help, and it did. I don’t know if it was coincidental or not, but I ended up taking it for over a year.
I absolutely do not recommend Amitriptyline for any reason ever. I was always tired, even though I was only taking 7.5mg each night. I told my doctor I wanted to quit, and she said that since it was such a low dose, I wouldn’t need to taper off. I believed her and didn’t taper, and it was terrible. I was nauseous for at least a full month and had migraines constantly. You should definitely taper off of Amitriptyline.
Because the headaches came back, I started taking Excedrin again. It didn’t work, and the only thing that would kind of work was Maxalt. They only give you 9 of those per month, though, so it was a disaster. I was constantly taking Excedrin to try and get rid of the constant migraines, and it wasn’t working at all, but probably just adding rebound and overmedication headaches into the mix.
Eventually, I went back to my neurologist and she recommended Ajovy (similar to Aimovig). It’s a monthly injection that you give yourself in either the arm, leg, or stomach. I was hesitant because I hate side effects, and if I did get side effects, I couldn’t just stop taking it like you can with oral medications.
It’s been great, though, and I highly recommend Ajovy. I’ve been taking it for 4-5 months and don’t even remember the last time I had to take Maxalt or Nurtec. I do occasionally take Excedrin, but because I’m so afraid of becoming addicted to it again, I probably only take it around once a week at most.
Also, fun fact that I recently learned: Maxalt, Imitrex, Zomig, and probably all triptans can cause rebound headaches, too. My neurologist says Nurtec does not cause rebound headaches, but you can only take one every 24 hours.
To sum it up, my recommendation to anyone who feels like their headache/migraine experience is at all similar to mine is: Ask your doctor about Ajovy because so far, it is working way better for me than anything else ever has.
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, Maxalt, Zomig, 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.
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!