The management of medication overuse headache (MOH) is based essentially on the withdrawal of the overused drug(s). Drug withdrawal is performed according to widely differing protocols, both within and across countries; therefore, therapeutic recommendations for the acute phase of detoxification vary considerably among studies. Basically, the aims of MOH management are: (a) to withdraw the overused drug(s); (b) to alleviate withdrawal symptoms by means of a bridge therapy, which includes pharmacological and non-pharmacological support, designed to help the patient to tolerate the withdrawal process; (c) to prevent relapse. Today, there is extensive debate over the best strategies for achieving these goals and the different aspects of this debate are discussed in this review. The authors searched for the best available evidence relating to the following questions: should medication withdrawal be abrupt or gradual? Should patients receive replacement therapy? What are the most effective therapeutic programmes for controlling withdrawal symptoms? Should replacement therapy be administered routinely or as rescue therapy? Should preventive treatment be started before, during or after withdrawal? What are the most effective preventive treatments? Should patients be managed through inpatient or outpatient withdrawal programmes? What is the best approach to adopt in preventing relapses? Treatment of MOH is a difficult challenge, but may be very rewarding. Although there is still a lack of high-quality studies providing evidence-based answers to the many specific questions it raises, neurologists need to know that the combination of education with a rational use of selected therapeutic strategies may be beneficial to people with chronic headache and help to relieve their suffering.
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