As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, people tend to consider painkillers inherently “safe” drugs because when used properly, they’re legal. But even when taken exactly as prescribed, it’s easy to become dependent on opioids.
If you find yourself physically dependent on pain pills even though you’ve followed your doctor’s orders and done everything right, you might be able to stop taking pain pills on your own.
To learn more about how painkiller use can affect your physical health, click here.
“Almost no one starts taking prescription painkillers thinking that they’ll be taking them indefinitely. They just know they’re hurting and they want relief.” – Mark Sullivan, M.D. (Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle)
Knowing When It’s Time to Stop Taking Pain Pills
How do you know when it’s time to stop taking pain pills and start looking for alternative ways to deal with your pain? Ask yourself these questions:
- Have I been taking pain medication for a month (or more)? Pain pills are typically prescribed to treat short-term pain from surgery or an injury. It’s very rare that doctors recommend taking such drugs for longer than a month.
- Do I feel better? If you have been prescribed pain medication to manage long-term pain, your pain levels and function will likely be evaluated every few months. If these medications are only marginally helping (or if your condition actually worsens) it’s probably time to try something new.
- Do I take high doses of my pain pills? The higher the dose of medication you take, the higher the risk of experiencing serious side effects and addiction.
- Are the side effects worth it? Common side effects of pain pills include nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, drowsiness, sexual dysfunction and bone loss.
It’s Important to Do It Right
So, you’ve decided you’re ready to try and stop taking pain pills on your own. Before you begin this journey, it’s highly recommended that you meet with your doctor and come up with a plan together. It will likely look something like this:
- Increase time between doses. This is the recommended approach for short-acting medication. Start by cutting back on the frequency (how often you take a dose), then decrease the dose itself (how many pills you take). Continue to decrease your dosage over the course of about a week, then try stopping all together.
- Slowly reduce the dose you’re taking. This is the best approach for long-acting medication. Increase the number of hours in between doses over the course of a few weeks. When you’re down to once a day, try stopping. (NOTE: never cut, crush or chew long-acting medications).
Everyone’s recovery plan will look a little different, so again, work with your doctor on the best approach for you.
Managing Withdrawal Symptoms on Your Own
The addictive nature of opioid pain pills increases the likelihood that you’ll experience some withdrawal symptoms when you decide to stop taking them (even if you go about it the right way). The following tips can help you feel better:
- Take a multi-vitamin
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Stay hydrated and drink lots of water
- Soothe your muscle aches by taking a hot shower or getting a massage
- Get lots of sleep
- Increase your exercise levels
If You Can’t Do It Alone, We’re Here to Help
If you think you’re addicted to pain pills and want to stop taking them, you might need some additional help. That’s where we come in. Our addiction recovery center in California is designed to help you gain the knowledge, courage, and determination you need to maintain a drug-free lifestyle so you can flourish as a productive and functioning member of your family and society. From day one each step and treatment program will be created around you and your individual needs to ensure you reach your goal of recovery. Fill out this form or call today at (661) 630-4176.