The Misery Drug

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Mar 19, 2008

Filed under: Personal 69 comments

I get migraine headaches from time to time. Some are debilitating, some are just really painful. During the worst ones I usually sit in the dark with ice on my head. Neither of these things really lessens the pain, but they give me some sort of comfort while I wait for the thing to blow over. The pain tends to come in waves, always behind one or both eyes. I’ll have a constant dull pain punctuated by short periods of more intense pain every few minutes. When the wave hits I usually get nauseous and close my eyes. I’ve never found any drug that helps, short of knocking me out. Most headaches last between four and eight hours.

The headaches first appeared when I was nine or ten. I’ve spent many years tracking behavior, diet, weather, mood, stress, and other factors looking for the cause of the headaches, but I’ve never found anything conclusive. I just get them. Sometimes I’ll go for months without getting one. Sometimes I’ll get three in a week.

What’s interesting is what happens when they end. Sometimes I get this wave of mild euphoria. I’ve been suffering so much that the mere absence of pain is pleasure. It’s a kind of sensation of inner peace. I walk around droopy-eyed, breathing this sort of constant sigh of relief. This period might last up to an hour. It’s pretty nice, although nowhere near worth the price I paid for it. I’m in that phase as I write this at 5:30am on Wednesday morning. It’s enjoyable, although even now in the midst of the it I’d gladly trade it away if I could have my night back, headache-free. I had things I wanted to do, which included getting a full night’s rest.

The reason I bring this up is because I was thinking about how drugs and alcohol work just the opposite: They give you a period of pleasure, followed by an interval of misery. I remember getting drunk a couple of times when I was in my early twenties. The last time I was drunk I found myself puking my guts out. As I sat there on the floor of the bathroom in my parent’s basement, leaning my head against the wall and looking down into the toilet, I wondered, “What in the hell is the sense in this? There is no way this was worth it. Not even close. How can people do this to themselves?” It was the last time I was ever drunk. I still don’t get it. Do other people hate hangovers less, or is drunkenness the result of a repeated failure to do cost / benefit analysis?

But it makes me wonder what would happen with a drug that worked in the opposite direction. What if there was a drug that worked like my headaches: It makes you intensely sick and miserable, and when it wears off the “hangover” is euphoric pleasure. Assume the intensity and duration of the high and the crash are the same as regular recreational drugs, just in reverse order. Would people do it? Would people take the drug? If it was habit forming, would the habit be easier to kick? Would it spread socially like other drugs? Dude, take this. You’ll feel horrible for a couple of hours and totally hate me for giving it to you, but then it’ll feel awesome.


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69 thoughts on “The Misery Drug

  1. Henry says:

    Hmm. I’m currently on an “I’m never drinking that much again” kick; I drank heavily as a student and much less so now I am a responsible adult. As a student, I was much less prone to hangovers; I suspect this was due to a combination of youth and habituation.

    The cost-benefit analysis is present, but when one has had n-1 beers (where n=minimum to cause a hangover), the nth beer now seems more attractive than avoiding the hangover tomorrow.

  2. Zaxares says:

    I suspect that if the payoff were big (read: pleasurable) enough, people would definitely do it. It would no doubt appeal to the same group of people who work slavishly for hours on end for a reward; it’s that feeling of accomplishment that hooks them.

  3. Shishberg says:

    Okay, I can think of one argument for and two against.

    In the “for” corner, after the effects wear off, your most recent memory of the drug would be the euphoria. Possibly that would cause you to remember the euphoria better than the pain when you’re deciding whether to do it again.

    In the “against” corner, first, the act of taking the drug would probably be associated more closely with the immediate, painful effects, rather than the delayed pleasure. You’d remember the “take drug… uuuhhhnnnggg feel awful” sequence of events close together in realtime; but the “take drug… (time passes)… feel great!” association would be much weaker. So you’d mainly get negative reinforcement. (Incidentally, I think the fact that most drugs work the other way around is a major reason that they’re addictive.)

    Second, most drug use, especially alcohol, is social. If you’re out drinking, you get the euphoria that night when you’re with people having fun, and you get the hangover the next morning when you’re alone in your own bed (or not, depending on exactly how drunk you were). If it was the other way around, you’d have to take the drug, say, the morning before you go out, which seems too much like planning or foresight or something.

  4. Gareth says:

    I’m lucky enough never to get hangovers. Well I say never, I’ve had two, but both were in circumstances where the evening preceding was bacchanalian enough to have been entirely forgotten. This hasn’t made me an alcoholic by any means, as for me the dubious pleasures of alcohol are outweighed by the dull conversation and ludicrous cost.

    There are several illegal drugs that lead to immediate nausea – although the pleasurable effects do not occur as an abatement of the pain. Many kinds of psilocybin mushrooms induce vomiting, and ecstasy can lead to stomach cramping and intense pain. Consumed in large quantities nutmeg can be a powerful ‘deliriant’, however it almost invariably induces projectile vomiting. Beyond the physically incapacitating effects, folk don’t generally let the ‘bad start’ put them off.

  5. Mik says:

    I brew beer, so I quite gladly drink it. The trick is to be self-aware/old enough to say “I think I will stop there” when you reach a point of early inebriation. Going beyond a sensible dose for your situation is a bad call no matter what the drug.

    As for the last… “Why do you keep hitting yourself with that hammer?”

    (all together now)

    “Because it feels so good when I stop!”

  6. LazerFX says:

    As someone who’s done basically the same as you – drunk to pleasure, but decided not to go beyond that to vomiting/hangover, I can safely say that it’s possible to balance the pain/pleasure nicely. Also, a couple of pints of water before going to bed nicely put off any hangovers (Though you may get up half-way through the night to pee – hopefully, you’ll get up, anyway).

  7. Gobo says:

    Thanks for reminding me that it’s been a long time since my migrains were regular. :) Used to have them once or twice a week for years. Horrible things. The aura made doing anything just impossible, couldn’t see enough to drive and reading was almost impossible since I seemed to have trouble putting words together (guess that is what dyslexia feels like). And just knowing that when the aura lifted, the headaches would kick in… But you seem to have harder headaches than me, since I can’t remember feeling good afterwards.

    I wish I could point to the exact cause for getting rid of them. I think making sure you get enough sleep might be a good place to start. I’m lucky enought to have an employer that is flexible on when I start the day, so I never force myself out of bed until I feel awake enough to be useful.

    Also, I’ve learned that grabbing a strong cup of coffee when the symptoms arrive seems to lessen the headaches considerably. Normal drugs however has no effect on me neither…

  8. Mob says:

    The trick would be to get drunk, and then take the drug. This way the negative effects of the drug are countered by the positive effects of being drunk, and vice versa. Depending on whether the positive outweigh the negative, you may have just thought up the ultimate hangover cure.

  9. Steve says:

    It sounds like smoking. As you suffer nicotine withdrawal it makes you feel irritable and crave another cigarette. Also I used to get headaches if I left it too long between smokes. When you did have a cigarette it just got rid of those symptoms and you felt normal again. In your mind though you associate feeling good and relief from the side effects with smoking creating positive feedback.

    All that rambling is basically my excuse for taking so long to give up :D

  10. Vegedus says:

    I’m no ‘responsible adult’ yet, so yeah, I drink. Still, I’ve rarely had very ill side effects from it. Out of the, I dunno, 30 or so times I’ve been drunk only one time has it lead to puking, and around 5 times have it lead to some minor discomfort of varying degree, but usually in a way that still makes it worth it. I do have a good deal of restriction that enables me to not drink too much (I would never take the nth beer Henry mentions), but I’m also fairly sure I’m somewhat resistant to hangovers, as I have drinked a fair lot at times without any consequences.

  11. Aaron says:

    Vegedus: My wife was able to drink like that too … for a while. When the body’s had enough it’ll let you know in a big way. The water trick LazerFX talked about has worked for me though (at least when I was drinking). I did all my drinking either before I was legal (risk was the prime motivator) or when I went back to college (social drinking). Now I have one drink on my b-day and one on New Years Eve mainly due to lack of interest.

    Shamus, I’m not very up on my drug lore, but isn’t what your describing (the pain then pleasure issue) something like the effect you get from heroin? First time makes you sick, then (with continued doses) it relieves that sickness which simulates pleasure? I’ll have to go look it up.

    Sorry about the migraines. my sister is a sufferer of severe migraines so you have my empathy.

  12. Zincorium says:

    I definitely feel the suffering/relief thing whenever I do any really hard excercise (for me, 2 miles or more running does the trick). It feels so good once I stop that it’s worth doing, something I have to remind myself of during the run.

    As far as drinking: Been doing it for years, still don’t get hangovers. At least nothing resembling the moaning, stumbling ‘I’ll never drink again’ hangovers everyone else seems to. Oddly this worries me because I’ve been warned repeatedly that I’m at risk for being an alcoholic.

  13. Phlux says:

    The trick with getting drunk is to know how much gets you drunk WITHOUT a hangover.

    I went through most of my early twenties without ever experiencing a hangover. Usually this was the result of two things: I recieved good advice early on about the importance of drinking LOTS of water. Also I usually got drunk on days that I could sleep in the next morning. Sleeping for twelve hours usually puts you past hangover phase.

    The major exception to this was my 21st birthday, in which I threw up because of drinking for the first time…all over myself…laying on my back…on my friends couch. The next day was not good.

    Note: Now that I am in my mid-late twenties, I do suffer from the occassional hangover, but I don’t binge drink like I used to, so they aren’t too bad/don’t last long, thus the cost-benefit favors the drinking.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Awww. I’m sorry about your headaches. Well, Shamus, I’ve had episodes of debilitating anxiety, and when they went away, I felt great! It didn’t matter what was going on, it had to be better than that.

    All in all, though, I’d rather not have it at all.

  15. Henebry says:

    I’ve heard that peyote works in exactly this way: you pay the price of admission at the door and then are admitted to a world of wonder.

    Some people do peyote more than once, so I guess the cost-benefit analysis works out positive for them. But it’s interesting that it’s a much-less-often abused drug than some others I can think of.

    As you point out, Shamus, most drugs work the opposite way, and this reminds me of a great Seinfeld monologue about “Evening Guy” and “Morning Guy”: Evening Guy keeps doing things that are fun for him, like staying up late drinking, and he doesn’t care about the costs because those are paid by Morning Guy.

  16. Adam says:

    I have had a constant headache for 139 days and counting. You have my sympathy.

    If I drink enough, I can’t feel my headache. That’s been a nice crutch some nights. ;)

  17. Chip says:

    The drug would sort of mirror what happens with childbirth. Giving birth causes the mother’s brain to release a group of chemicals which make her forget how painful the whole experience was. (Which is a good thing, evolutionarily speaking, or everybody would stop at one baby and the human race would eventually die out.)

    So, yeah, I can see people being willing to take the discomfort if the euphoria was rewarding enough.

  18. Joe says:

    Through elementary and middle school I would get 1 migraine per year, same time every year. For 3 years they even started at about the same hour. It was honestly the weirdest experience for 7 years, and then they went away. I really don’t know what changed, but I haven’t had one in the 8 years since.

  19. Snook says:

    Shamus: You’re wrong in that all drugs have a negative side to them after the euphoria wears off… Weed, for example. You get a high, which depending on how much you smoke can range from 2 to 4 hours, and afterwards it’s a steady comedown with no real drawbacks. The only bad things about weed is the money you spend on it and all the food you had in your fridge being gone the next morning. Well, and the illegality.

    Also, depending on how you drink, you can get really, really drunk without a hangover. It’s pretty easy actually. Best hangover cure is to drink plenty of water before bed and take a multivitamin, and if you can, to eat before and after drinking. I haven’t had a hangover in months, even after getting decidedly plastered.

    However, I don’t think I’d do a drug where you suffer for a time to get a high afterwards. It sounds like it wouldn’t be fun.

  20. GAZZA says:

    Well, I’ve never drunk alcohol (I don’t count the odd bottle cap of beer from Gramps as a 4 year old), so I don’t really get the hangover bit (I’m 35, by the way, in case someone thought I was a 10 year old or something), but I have suffered migraines. The only really common factor I noticed was they tend to arrive in fairly hot weather, though I have been spared them the past couple of years.

    But on topic – do I think a drug that made you feel terrible and then great would be popular? Probably. There are many varieties of people in the world; it’s just about certain someone would get off on that. Isn’t that just a variation of what turns on the average masochist? Pain followed by pleasure? Seems to be similar.

    Excepting hallucinogens, as far as I’m aware most “hard” drugs don’t permanently impair your reasoning ability. I have to believe that if you’re a heroin addict, that you know the come down is bad – and that the reason you remain addicted is because (at some level) you’ve decided that the high is a worthwhile trade off. Even if that’s not the case for heroin addicts (come on, you expect a non-drinker to know much about heroin? :) ), a more mild form of this argument can be applied to alcohol – many people, I guess, figure that the pleasant feeling of being drunk outweighs the misery of a hangover.

    And hey – if that’s your bag, go for it. Legalise all drugs, I say – I don’t care WHAT you’re addicted to, as long as you’re not breaking in to my house and nicking my DVD player to support your habit. :)

  21. Hal says:

    I don’t know if you take anything for your migraines, Shamus, but my sister used to have them frequently and with great intensity. She takes some OTC stuff for prevention, Migravent and 5HTP. They’ve worked really well for her, so I highly recommend it.

  22. I used to get a lot of migraine-type headaches.

    Then I found out I was anemic. Doctors weren’t willing to say anything other than my iron was “low”, but I was clearly symptomatic.

    Now I take iron supplementation, two of the little green pills a day on average, and they’ve mostly gone away. That’s a lot of iron, but I seem to need it.

    Caucasians trend towards this problem. In the “not the same” corner, my problem was much more regular and predictable than yours; on the other hand, there can be a multi-day delay between forgetting my pills and being affected. It would be hard to determine this by tracking your diet, as a result.

    Just a possible direction to explore; I wouldn’t mention it except that the payoff could be worth it.

  23. Shamus says:

    adam: 139 days? Oh man. You have my sympathy. :(

  24. LoopyWolf says:

    I suffer migranes too, actually, what I’ve found over all the years is that one’s natural instincts about migranes are backwards: One wants to lie down, not move, and put ice, but I have found that light activity, and heat applied to the area of pain highly beneficial.

    I hope it helps!

  25. Adam says:

    Eh, by this point I’d probably miss it if it was gone.

    That hasn’t stopped me from counting the days, though.

  26. Davesnot says:

    hmm… long term pain.. short term payoff… sounds like most people’s lives.. so.. yeah.. I think people’d do it.

  27. mom says:

    WHAT!? In the basement of my home? You are so grounded!

  28. MRL says:

    If I recall, there was a type of wine harvested from berries grown in extremely magic-irradiated soil in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

    Not only were the berries harvested the season before they were planted, but the hangover comes the morning before the wine is drunk; it is very good wine, though very expensive.

  29. azrhey says:

    ah migraines! I have made some sort of doubled large hat/berret that I keep in the freezer full of frozen dry peas so I can wear it on my head before going to pay down in complete darkness. For the longest time I though that no drug would help until I was prescribed some Fiorinal with codeine ( the codeine part is important for me ) I wash that down with a double espresso for the extra hrmph the caffeine provides. It doesn’t solve the migraine complete but I’d say it diminishes the pain about 50% which is a good thing.
    If you can take this ( there are reasons not to depending on side effects ) you may want to give it a try. Fiorinal didn’t do anything to be until I got it with codeine AND washed it down with coffee.

    Good luck with those!

  30. hank says:

    As mentioned above regarding peyote, there are drugs that work this way. Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide is a powerful and potentially profound drug, but it only starts working once you pass the valley of knives. You know you’re near the good part when you stop throwing up.

    Is it worth it? It can be. I’d never use it casually, but as a spiritual aid it is a useful tool for stripping away everything and showing you yourself as you really are, if you can handle such a thing.

  31. Rubes says:

    Actually, I’ve had back pain for a number of years, and there are some days when it is completely gone. I have often thought that the absence of pain those days feels much better than if I had never had the pain in the first place.

  32. Adamantyr says:

    I have frequent migraine headaches myself… always have since I was a kid. Not long ago, my mom gave me one of her RelPax pills, one of the newer migraine medications that’s come out recently.

    During a particularly bad one (I tried using a cold pack on my neck and ended up setting off my gag reflex, leaving my breakfast on the rug), after trying a double dose of generic pain med with no effect, I took the pill. And an hour later, the HEADACHE WAS GONE.

    I now got my own prescription to the stuff, and it works. It really works. It’s like you’ve been fighting with your bare hands for years against some monster and someone finally gave you a gun to just shoot the bastard with. :)

  33. Viktor says:

    I fortunately never get migraines, though my brother gets laid out once every couple months by them. You have my sympathy.

    On topic, I would love a drug that sucks now but is good later. I would take it when I already feel bad on the “It can’t get worse” theory,(it usually can, but I like to trick myself) and then enjoy it later as a reward.

  34. Allerun says:

    Uhg, I hate migraines. Fortunately they are a rare occurance for me. Off topic: What happened to the Wavatars?

  35. Taellosse says:

    As has already been pointed out, certain natural hallucinogens, in particular, tend to have exactly that effect–initial unpleasantness before the mind-altering effects kick in. It is significant to note, however, that while someone might do such a drug more than once, they don’t tend to be habit-forming (the exception being for a person with a highly addictive personality. I’ve known such people–even with drugs that don’t tend to be addictive, they get hooked on the effects anyway. I tend to think they’ve got similar problems to someone addicted to gambling or sex–there’s an inherent biochemical imbalance going on there, rather than a direct drug issue–the drugs just happen to trigger it).

    However a factor that must be taken into account with this kind of thinking is that there is more than one kind of addiction. There’s the “this is enjoyable, I want to do it again” sort, which drugs such as marijuana, LSD, or ecstasy can engender, and there is the chemically addictive kind, which includes drugs such as heroine, cocaine, and alcohol. In the latter case, its less about the pleasure they cause, and more to do with the fact that the body and brain of a person that abuses them comes to physically depend on regular doses for continued optimal functioning. The withdrawal symptoms one experiences from those drugs is because the body’s biochemistry has forgotten how to self-regulate without those drugs being introduced regularly.

    Oh, and the hangover effects of overdoing it with alcohol can be mitigated by water before sleep because of how the liver breaks down alcohol–as with so many biochemical reactions, it requires water. You get a hangover because you’re severely dehydrated after your body has processed the alcohol. Drinking plenty of water prevents this from happening because it gives your body a ready source of water without going after stored reserves. It also allows your liver to send the broken down poisons through your kidneys and out of your system much more quickly, which prevents them from lingering and causing other nastiness (hence why you have to pee in the middle of the night if you do take some water).

  36. Gahaz says:

    Just as to say it, and please, i am not young nor am I any kind of hippy, nor am I any kind of burnout!

    I’m 24, happily married, have two well round kids and own my home. I say this to put up the idea that I am a productive member of society. So here comes my two cents….

    Weed, green, vitamin G, Mary Jane, whatever you want to call it is the most entertaining and helpful narcotic I have to hide from my government. You can’t O.D., there is no hangover, and the positives that it brings to the table is incredibly helpful.

    Now I’m not saying I smoke it in the open, or let my kids see it or see me smoke it. Its normally late night after they are asleep. The reason I have stuck with it is a problem I have. I have had terrible bouts of nausea on a regular basis, stomach cramps and the feeling of near vomiting. This normally affects me in the evenings when your metabolism drops in preperation of sleep. The drug settles my stomach and helps me get to sleep. No hangover, I normally very chipper in the mornings because of the sleep I get!

  37. Jeff says:

    Have you seen a doctor about your headaches?

    There might be some sort of pressure building up, it never hurts to get an MRI or similiar done to make sure you don’t have anything serious. Well, it hurts the wallet, but how much is peace of mind really worth?

  38. Roam says:

    Sigh. I hate to be contrary and perhaps even controversial due to the universally excepted subjective nature of medical maladies, but I truly do get the impression that some people don’t entirely get what a migraine is.

    As someone who suffers from them since childhood on a regular basis, it always annoys me somewhat when people confuse headaches and migraines, because they are so different. (Mostly aimed at Loopywolf)

    A headache is a painful sensation in the head, a migraine will bring nausea, a sensivity to light and sound and is so painful that you start fearing you may be dying, because no pain of that magnitude could result from something that isn’t life threatening. It’s not true, of course, but during truly bad episodes, when every movement you make brings a new wave of nausea and pain, I can’t help but feel it.

    So no. Light activity and heat will NOT work against a migraine, because one of the main symptoms of a migraine is that movement, light and diverging temperatures aggravate it. A migraine is currently thought to come from a different chemical composition in the brain that results in veins in the brain rapidly widening and constricting. A bit like what you’ll see in warm weather (Veins come closer to the skin to cool off), but without a purpose and much much more rapid.

    Activity causes a surge of blood to pass through the body, aggravating the veins that are spazzing out, causing more pain. Heat applied to the forehead may relieve some of the stress due to making the widening process take a tad longer, but all in all the only real remedy is to wait it out.

    But enough about that. Adam, I don’t know what kind of headache you are suffering from, but any chronic form of headache is a nuisance regardless. You have my sincere sympathies. I hope it goes away soon.

    Shamus, I have recently found a relative preventive substance that somewhat mitigates the frequency of my migraines. Then again, I suffer from a relatively odd form of migraine, that has symptoms of both migraine headaches as well as cluster headaches, so I can’t promise that it’ll work. :P

    Anyway, it was a suggestion from my doctor: Drink Coffee. I know you are trying to cut down/have cut down, and that’s not neccesarily a bad thing. My doctor advised me to drink 2 cups of coffee (or cola) a day, although I generally drink only one in the morning. The reason is that Caffeine makes your veins expand, which seems to counteract the initial period of constricting/expanding. Generally, for me a migraine is like a ball rolling of a slope: It needs to get to speed.

    Caffeine has really brought down the frequency of my migraines by a noticeable amount. I have no idea why it works as well as it does, and maybe it’s just a damn placebo, but I don’t care. My migraines are a defining feature of my life, just like your asthma may have been for you, Shamus, and anything that mitigates its control over my day to day activities is a blessing.

    My two cents.

  39. Vendrin says:

    The point is getting drunk without worrying about a hangover. Just need to drink lots of water, and your good.

  40. Adamantyr says:

    Roam, good point about the caffeine. I usually find missing morning caffeine makes you much more likely to get a headache later.

    Also, drinking water always helps. I don’t keep soda in the house anymore; if I need to drink something cold a bottle of water is good, and the more hydrated you are the more cushioned your system is.

    However, when you get a migraine headache, you’re pretty much useless. For me, mine are never so terrible that I’m in actual horrific pain (where you actually contemplate screaming because it may distract you), but they’re bad enough that I have no ability to do anything but sit or lie down in a dark room.

    Which is why I found the migraine medications so incredibly cool. At last, I have an effective weapon against a headache that decides to rob me of my weekend, or keep me from going to work. My only concern now is that I need to get better at differentiating between a migraine headache and a more conventional headache caused by lack of food, dehydration, or muscle tension. The pills cost enough you hold off using one until you’re certain it’s a migraine.

    These particular meds are part of the Triptan family. You can read about them here:

    In particular, they are not a pain masker. They actually remove the headache itself! As the article notes, they are not a cure or a preventative, and they’re prescription required and rather expensive. But they’re way more effective than an aspirin.

  41. Gothmog says:

    Shamus- I’m sorry to hear of your migraine woes.
    Thankfully, I’ve never suffered from them, but my wife has for the past couple of years. And experiencing them through her- they are quite horrible.

    She’s tried caffeine, Her doctor has her on some new medication (Topomax, I think.) that has reduced the frequency of her migraines. However, it has some side effects that include sleeplessness that have been trying as well.

    Best of luck to you, man.

  42. Davesnot says:

    Gahaz said

    i am not young ….I'm 24.

    Youth is hilarious!

    As to the onset of a migraine.. and the knowlege that most (all?) are caused by a restriction of blood flow to the brain (why is a holy grail).. anyway.. lots of people have luck by drinking lots of water and soaking their hands in very warm water (not scalding hot.. really warm.. borderline hot).. the idea being that your hands in warm water tell your body to open up the blood vessels.. and the lots of water because most people are constantly slightly dehydrated which makes for thicker blood.. who knows.. maybe good old asprin does its thing for normal headaches because it thins the blood..

    Say.. a child asprin a day is a good thing to do for most as they get older.. maybe that’ll have a side effect of keeping your brain well-oiled.

    good luck!.. say.. maybe blogging more would help.. just shut your eyes.. but your head on your desk.. but leave your hands on the keyboard and keep typing for us… damnit!

  43. ArchU says:

    This is almost the equivalent of asking what the meaning of life is – everyone is going to have a different answer. Myself, I don’t drink for the sake of getting drunk, I do it because I enjoy what I’m consuming. While some people may enjoy the associated bowel-ejection that comes with excessive drinking, I don’t so I try to avoid it where possible.

    As to your drug question, if I took something purposely to feel horrible for a while just to feel great afterwards – well, face it, there are medications that do exactly that so I might as well purposely try to get sick to the same effect. Thing is, I also randomly get near-debilitating headaches sometimes, except without the euphoria afterwards.

  44. I don’t have migraines and I’ve never been drunk enough to have a noticeable buzz, but I have noticed feeling euphoric after a lot of pain when I have menstrual cramps (yeah, I know, ew).

    I think your brain or body have “pain-dealing” mechanisms so that you stop realizing just how MUCH you hurt until it goes away, and then you’re like, woo!

  45. Vendrin says:

    “I think your brain or body have “pain-dealing” mechanisms so that you stop realizing just how MUCH you hurt until it goes away, and then you're like, woo!”

    It does, their called Endorphins(sp?) and their really good stuff.

  46. Kaeltik says:

    OK, the following article was meant for doctors, so some of the jargon is a little intense. Included are discussions of prophylactic and abortive treatments, including non-chemical and dietary methods.

    Pay special attention to the notes on caffeine (given earlier discusion here) and on cervical spine abnormalities (i.e. neck problems).

    My journal access is restricted from my home network, but if folks want more info, like access to the references at the bottom, just ask and I’ll see what I can do from my office network.

  47. Hal says:

    Actually, 5HTP stands for 5-hydrotryptophan, a serotonin precursor. That’s why it’s so good for helping prevent migraines, and it’s OTC.

  48. Nick says:

    Oh Shamus, it’s not that drinking always has those effects, it’s that you were terrible at drinking. And you’ve let your badness at drinking sour you on being drunk, which is kinda sad I guess but probably means you have more time and money than I do. So even trade off.

  49. TalrogSmash says:

    Well, my two cents, having suffered a grand total of two migraines in my life, both stress induced.

    Check your stress sources around you. I know it sounds lame but humans as a species have taught themselves to ignore most stress inducers, even though that doesn’t make the stress they produce go away. Noise for no reason and irritable tactile sensations being highest on the list of things we take for granted that actually drive our bodies and minds crazy.

    Second, get one of those OTC anti teeth-grinding bite guards. Many People grind their teeth in their sleep. So many people do it in fact that most dentists cant tell the difference between someone who does and someone who doesn’t, because they rarely if ever see anyone without the symptoms.
    It is amped up by stress, and creates stress itself, nice little bio-feedback loop, leading straight to migraine.

    Good luck with that however it turns out.

  50. kdorian says:

    Like Gareth, I don’t get hangovers – even the one time I was thowing-up drunk (yech. Who thinks that’s fun?) I tried drinking till I was drunk a few times, decided I didn’t like the poor judgment problems – trust me, at least for me, there’s nothing like that morning-after realization that you were driving a car when you were too drunk to walk straight.

    Yet, despite the whole lack-of-suffering thing, I never get drunk any more. One or two drinks gets me relaxed, and at that point I lose all impulse to drink any more.

    I also get migraines – (comparitavely) mild in my case, so you have my sympathy. I finally figured out that my trigger was light, and my computer monitor was the worst culprit; these days I have the brightness down to about 20%, and I’m getting a tenth as many migraines (in the summer I wear sunglasses sitting at my desk!)

  51. Jeff says:

    On a side note, I will be turning 25 soon and feel like I’m old as dirt.

    You people are just older then dirt. ;)

  52. Helm says:

    friend of mine says acupuncture has appeared to have cured his migraine, might be worth a go Shamus

  53. Sybarite says:

    Hrmm.. ignoring all of the serious discussions of drugs and such and the crappiness of migranes, I’d like to focus on the “would people do it again” part of the comment. I’m thinking about childbirth… Most women go through hours of agony willingly in order to give birth. Not only does the experience result in immediate pain, it also comes along with life-long physical effects as well. Even with these two major negative, a lot of women are quite willing to go through the process again because of the enjoyable end result. (I’m assuming access to contraception here, so the methods used in getting pregnant are not the motivating factor in the pregnancy).

  54. Mephane says:

    I can fully understand why you are wondering, Shamus, for I am too. I have never been drunk in my life, and for me even the mere thought of totally losing control of myself while being drunk is already enough to tell myself “nowhere in hell would it ever be worth it”. Not to mention the pain that comes after the ‘incident’.

    I suppose in your hypothetical situation, a fair amount of people would stop getting drunk, but surely not everyone. Especially since alcohol can also be addictive.

  55. lxs says:

    That paper someone linked above ( looks really good. I was going to say tyramines are a potential trigger – in fact I have said it – but after glancing at that paper, I remember my mum took some tests to pin down what was causing hers. Has your doctor considered dietary triggers?
    Shamus, I have to agree with others – you need more practice at drinking. I still sometimes choose to have a hangover, but most of the time I prefer mild intoxication and a payback lower than that suffered by caffeine abusers. Ethanol is diuretic which accounts for most of the aftereffects. So drink a pint of water before you go to sleep, or ideally a couple between booze.

    Drink good booze with a low to none methanol content, avoid dark ales and aged whiskey until you get the hang of lighter stuff. Vodka and juice is very clean, the fructose and vitamins keep you energised and more likely to be a happy drunk than a crying one.
    Your drug would be a total hit with me, providing the parameters could be tuned so I could sleep through the pain! It would be a bit hard to organise with our morning work pattern
    *** warning, massive rant about drugs ***

    The true price of weed isn’t felt the next day, but after months of regular use (even mild). When I was using it to help me sleep, the sleep lost its effectiveness. In addition I found it very hard (ie painful) to concentrate for a modest amount of time, which impacted my job performance.

    Some of that may have been the MDMA and speed working their way out, but I’m inclined to blame the weed since I continued using that months after I quit the others. Six months or so after I stopped the weed too my big brane came back. Anecdotal ^^

    I still use booze and nicotine. Sometimes I smoke as many as six cigarettes a week, usually 0-2. For me it’s way easier than giving up, because I like smoking, just not all that much.
    IMHO most existing controlled substances are not dangerous if used appropriately. Take enough ibuprofen and you’ll begin to bleed internally, take enough MDMA and you’ll become stupid and depressed. With a pure supply, proper safety leaflets, recommended max dosage etc they would not be very dangerous. Most drug users are pretty scared of side effects, but inconsistency of supply and the unavailability of trustworthy research hamper their choice of risk level.

    With an appropriate culture (like the drink responsibly message), drug use does not have to be so addictive. Often imho it’s the circumstances in which drug users find themselves, the subculture, the lack of support and the black market, that really harm them.

    Watch Requiem for a Dream, and imagine the government supplied the drugs, they were culturally accepted and appropriate support for users in trouble (like AA) was in place. None of the bad outcomes would be possible. (warning: really frickin dark movie)
    ps. the dots are to provide a double line spacing to separate topics. The parser is eliminating the newline between a smiley and a dot, which is annoying. Also I expected a blank line then a dot line to create a two-line gap, which it doesn’t… grr. I hope overall they enhance readability :S
    And it removed my plus-symbol! I wonder if that happened when I clicked edit? It didn’t replace +

  56. lxs says:

    I can’t believe I ran out of re-edits >.>
    Time to STFU!

  57. Greg says:

    In terms of conditioning it would be less habit forming. The interval between the behaviour and the reward or punishment is key for determining if a behaviour will be repeated in animals. It seems reasonable to assume that the same is true of people.

    That being said I suspect a certain type of mind would get into the habit of taking it just before they go to sleep and timing their alarm to wake them up for the good bit :P

  58. Leslee says:

    Here’s something that no one has suggested… TATTOOS!

    The pain of being repeatedly stuck with a needle is followed by a rush of endorphins. Many people become addicted to this cycle of pain/reward.

    I realize that a tattoo is not a drug, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

  59. Stark says:

    Adam… You didn’t say but I’m hoping you are seeking medical care for that headache. Long term continuous headaches can be signs of Very Bad Things. On the off chance that you are not already under care for it…. go to a doctor. Today. There are plenty of relatively benign causes of long term headaches but there are also more than a few that will kill you. A bit of diagnostic work can save your life.

  60. Locri says:

    Like some others mentioned, 5-HTP is helpful. I take it for reasons other than migraines, but it thankfully has reduced the amount of them that I get. It’s down to about one severe one per year these days.

    I find that Imitrix and that family of meds don’t work all that well on me, for some reason (odd, because it works with Serotonin too, like 5-htp.. just a different way I guess?). In the US there is a nice drug called Midrin which is a combo tranquilizer, blood thinner, pain killer that works really well. Hydrocodone (Vicodin) is also extremely nice, although harder to get a perscription for.

    In Canada we have Tylenol-1’s which I use a fair amount for headaches and it takes the edge off migraines (although I still end up in a dark room laying down).

    My sympathies either way, migraines are miserable to go through.

  61. Gsylass says:

    Ugh, my sympathies too! I am currently undergoing acupuncture for migraines. Within 6 weeks, what would have normally been a three-day session of migraines had reduced to 24 hours, which is an improvement if not quite a total cure yet. I have also been put on a “dairy-free” diet, which is actually just cutting out anything with cow’s milk in it, but I haven’t noticed a huge difference since switching to goat’s milk, although other people have had positive results. We don’t seem to have the availability of drugs in my location that you have in the States. The tablets my doctor gave me did nothing for the pain, just made me feel even more sick, hence my venture into complementary medicine. Hope you find something that works for you.

  62. Myrna says:

    I actually just had a really nasty Migraine the other day, and I sortof know what you’re talking about.

    Mine work like this: hours 0-3, strong headache that I somehow just know it’s a “big one”. 3-9, almost non-stop extreme pain. So much that the time before last I quite litterally lost it and knocked myself out on the toilet. 9+ pain subsides, and if I didn’t pass out, some awesome euphoria etc. Usually I pass out and wake up much later, considerably drained and nauseous.

  63. Markus says:

    I wonder why no one seems to have mentioned this before, but on the other hand this is a geek website…
    Exercise. It’s the ultimate in punishment first drugs. First you willingly torture yourself for an hour and then get high on endorphins afterwards. Quite easy to get hooked, actually.

  64. d4b3ll3z says:

    Wow, coming into this a little late, but oh well.

    First, alcohol. For me it’s not anywhere near what Shamus described. I don’t know if I’m just used to it by now, but it’s very rare that I have a night of drinking that ends in the bathroom “praying to the porcelain god”. Typically what triggers such nights is a profuse mixing of different types of alcohols or just different types of substances in general. I also rarely get a hangover that is more than a “icky” feeling possibly combined with a mild headache. I’ve found that the former is mostly dehydration, which is easily solved, and the latter is usually gone by noon and easily treated with a few mg of OTC medication.

    Now, onto the questions posted. If there were a drug where I felt horrible and then felt great would I take it? Sure, but not frequently and it would depend on the severity of the pain. If the pain were about as bad as most of my hangovers then the euphoria afterwards would be worth it, but then again I’m not most of Americans. Most Americans seem to have the “instant gratification” syndrome when it comes to recreational drugs. This goes for all forms. There’s not a drug out there that people use where they consider the long-term effects of it. All drugs are taken for the feeling you get right after taking them, not for how you feel in the morning. I also believe that this is why most, if not all, are so addictive. The hangover is so bad, possibly, that the only way to combat it is to take the drug again. If it were the other way around the drug would be simple to overcome.

    If you took a drug knowing that you’d feel like crap for a while only to feel good you’d be taking it for the long-term effect, which wouldn’t need overcoming because it feels good. A drug like that would likely be taken in advance of something, or rather, in anticipation of something that you wanted the hangover for. Not really the kind of forethought most drug-users are known for.

  65. Nathan says:

    Your migrane experience sounds analagous to my marriage–a period of intense pain and suffering followed by euphoria simply because it was OVER. (That is a story though, much too long to be told here.)

  66. PETE!!! says:

    a couple of points to be made here.

    there are drugs out there, like peyote/shrooms, that make you sick as ass then give you a great high.

    this migraine/euphoria relationship sounds a lot like my 4 week bout with bronchitus. i have been feeling wonderful for about 2 days now simply because i’m not caughing up my lungs every 3 minutes. its a matter a sensory adaptation. you get far too used to the pain and un-pleasure that being healthy once its over feeling normal feels like a god send.

    this also sounds like my relationship with D&D. i put up with my douchebag, idiotic, assinine, loser, make-your-life-a-living-hell-because-you-hate-them-so-much-you-want-to-kill-them friends for the joy that rp-ing brings me. (for the record, i don’t really hate them, they are my friends by choice after all, and i’m as much of a douchebag right back)

    this also brings to mind going through the torture and pain of taking a MASSIVE dump, and then you feel so, so much happier afterwards :)

    hope the migraines get better, man. my pop gets them from time to time so bad that he’s not moving for three days except to throw up from the pain. so i’ve seem it first hand. it can be pretty brutal. take like 5 ibuprofin and some alieve and think of the euphoria that comes after.

    ps, it may be a form of petit mal epilepsy. just a theory me and some friends came up with for unexplained horrible migraines. like your brain is manifesting epilepsy as pain. maybe you want to research different kinds of epilepsy. who kbows?

    and to adam: go to the doctor dude. a headache for 139 days is usually a sign of something much worse. or maybe your brain just hates you that much. but probably the former.

  67. Kar Everwatchful says:

    It’s not actually that the pain going away causes normality to feel pleasurable so much as it is that endorphins, which ARE pleasure, are also the body’s natural pain blocker. Once the brain goes ‘oh, pain. Maybe I should look at that’, it also tends to release some endorphins to reduce the effect, as pain disrupts the entire brain’s functionality, and the point of pain is that it goes ‘hey stupid, something’s wrong. Check it out.’ Once your attention is gotten, the excessive disruption is pointless. Once the pain is over with, however, that doesn’t mean the endorphins magically go away instantly. As such, you feel pleasure once they aren’t just working to block pain.

    Alcohol. Yeech. I had some as part of a chocolate once. I spat it back out immediately. Probably the worst thing I’ve ever tasted. I can’t even begin to offer an explanation as to why anyone would drink the stuff. I can’t make it to the ‘drunk’ stage. I get it from my mom; she can’t stand alcohol either. (My dad, on the other hand, though he has no particular liking for alcohol, maintains his equilibrium much better than most people when he does happen to drink any)

    I sometimes have massive headaches like that, where it spikes specifically behind one or both eyes. Typically, it happens when I take in something exceptionally cold, which is to say that it’s ‘brain freeze’. Brain freeze is itself not actually the brain in pain (It has no pain sensors), but rather is the blood vessels on the outside of the head responding badly.

    Mind you, I’ve never had them last for hours like that, and in fact they typically last less than three seconds. I don’t know what would cause that kind of pain over that period of time, though I would imagine it’s some kind of danger/damage to the blood vessels in the head. High blood pressure, maybe? Sometimes I put too much pressure on my heart, and the best solution for me is usually to lie down, cover my eyes, and just relax. The pain goes away within thirty minutes, typically less.

    Illness is hard on the adrenal system, which is a part of the immune system and is pumped by the heart. Foods or supplements that support the adrenal system might help. Maybe. Not sure why they would, but it’s a thought, at least.

    My worst headaches go away by sipping quinine water. It’s very alkaline, which helps changes the blood’s PH balance. Most virii and some other contagions are not able to tolerate a sufficiently alkaline (As opposed to acid) environment, and simply die. The human body isn’t as bothered, so long as you don’t go too far.

    My absolute worst headaches come from high-pitched frequencies, which often are virtually impossible to identify. My dad had this really big TV that, while turned on, produced this horrid keening sound that gave me a terrible headache, but being a TV, it was typically making a lot of other, more noticeable sounds while on. I didn’t catch on for months, and even then only due to a fluke involving it being muted. Since I didn’t use the TV, it seemed completely random for the longest time.

    And… I got nothing else.

  68. pl says:

    I had headaches like those since about a year ago, when I found out I was gluten-sensitive.

    Keeping journals of activity never worked for me, because something like gluten is too hard to keep track of. I might be able to write down the foods I was eating, but how am I to know if any of them contain gluten? Answer: I usually didn’t.

  69. Pearly says:

    I forget why I was reading this again, but the mention of the euphoric response to the pain finally being gone reminded me (in surely a lesser amount than for your completely hideous migraines) of the way I feel for a while after the drugs kick in on the first day of menstruation.

    Since the pain and accompanying delights usually appear pretty much at the same time, for me, and with little warning, I usually get (at least) a few hours of unhappiness before a sufficient dose actually gets down to business. But when it does, I always find myself a bit dazed, walking around and stretching like a cat just because I can do so without hurting. It’s interesting to hear that this reaction applies in both conditions.

    Maybe it’s something about how pain is handled, biologically? It’s not like I’m actually injured, here. I guess I’ll go ask wikipedia now, but I’d just had this thought and it seemed interesting enough to share.

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