Q. I suffered from cluster headaches for 14 years. Some doctors said the pain was psychosomatic. Others told me I was allergic to chocolate.

Once I actually put a pistol to my head to kill myself because the pain was so unbearable. But with a wife and three children to support I could not pull the trigger. Doctors prescribed Demerol for the pain and I became dependent on this narcotic. I eventually kicked the habit.

Then I quit smoking. Within a week my headaches stopped. They only return when I am in a room with a smoker. I thank God I no longer suffer horrible headaches.

A. Cluster headaches are sometimes called suicide headaches because the pain can be so severe. It tends to occur on one side of the face, near the eye. The pain can last up to several hours and recurs in clusters for weeks or months at a time.

Nonsmokers may benefit from breathing oxygen. A new study shows that 15 minutes of high-flow oxygen at the beginning of a cluster headache can be surprisingly effective (Journal of the American Medical Association, Dec. 9, 2009).

We discuss treatments for cluster headaches, migraines and other head pain in our brand-new Guide to Headaches and Migraines.

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  1. Greg Pharmcy Student

    Although I’ve never heard of smoking as a cause of headaches, I have heard of many other things that can cause headaches. At one point we had a patient who used to go through a box of Axert (medication for headaches) every week, he had a terrible headache almost everyday. Now he never takes this medication because one-by-one he eliminated things from his diet and does not get headaches — AMAZING.

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