Junior High Student’s Chronic Migraine Symptoms Mistaken for Drug Abuse

March 25, 2012

A 12-year-old Texan middle-school student recently went to the nurse’s office complaining of a splitting headache and an upset stomach. Instead of receiving medical attention, she was suspended and issued a citation by a local sheriff’s deputy for being under the influence. Testing at the local hospital revealed she didn’t have any drugs or alcohol in her urine or blood. It turns out the young girl was having her very first adolescent migraine attack. Sadly, the incident underscores just how misunderstood chronic migraine pain is even though 10 percent of children in the United States suffer from it.

Instead of receiving the migraine treatment they deserve, many young people are not correctly diagnosed because the symptoms of adolescent migraine can mirror signs of drugs and alcohol abuse. In addition to debilitating head pain, adolescents in the throes of a migraine attack may experience:

  • aura
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • vertigo
  • sweating
  • confusion
  • agitation
  • prickling and burning sensations on their face and arms

More teenage girls than teenage boys suffer from chronic migraines due to hormonal changes related to their menstrual cycle. And teens with a family history of migraines are more likely to suffer from migraines as teenagers and into their adult years. But despite the real pain and suffering teens experience because of migraines, less than 11 percent receive the migraine treatment they need to cope with this painful and debilitating condition.

Correct diagnosis is the key to ensuring teenagers get the help they need. If your child or grandchild exhibits any of the signs of chronic migraine, consult a physician — preferably a board certified specialist in interventional pain management who specializes in migraine treatment.  And if your child is diagnosed with chronic migraine, inform nurse at their school, as well as adults who may supervise your child during extracurricular activities. Good communication is the best way to avoid an unfortunate misunderstanding like the one that happened to the Texas student.

Previous post:

Next post: