How to Quit Pain Killers


Pain killers are great when we are feeling under the weather, when we have a cold, headache or a flu, or when we have bruised ourselves or twisted an ankle. Many of these are highly effective at numbing the pain, but at the same time they can become dangerous if you start to become dependent on them which is a real threat, particularly with prescription pain killers that are much stronger. Some of these pain killers can be just as addictive and as dangerous in high doses as any recreational drug, but the fact that they come from the doctor makes them seem far less real a threat and this makes it all too easy to keep going to the doctor for more. This is particularly true of those who experience continuous chronic pain, for whom taking pain killers might be one of the only ways to lessen the pain.

Most pain killers, particularly subscription pain pills, are opiates (which puts them in the same class as heroin and morphine) and these work by slowing down the body’s nervous system which results in general slowness of healing, slower reactions, slurred speech, pasty skin tone and other side effects.

In order to quit there are many things you can do. First of all you need to want to quit. This is true of giving up any addiction and unless you know you definitely actually want to give up the drugs you will keep finding excuses. You have to want to do it for you and you have to put aside all of your pride and your preconceptions and not care about the method.

From here there are several ways to quit any addiction. Either you can try going ‘cold turkey’ and cutting them completely, though this might prove too much of a shock to the system if you are badly physically addicted, you can quit slowly by reducing your doses each time, or you can use substitute medication to help your body to ease the transition. A drug called Suboxone for example if very useful for helping opiate users to experience less of the chemical craving.

More importantly though you should ask for help – and not just from your friends, but from professionals. It does not matter if you feel like you do not need it, or feel like it is degrading. If you really want to quit you should be ready to try anything and it takes a lot more courage to do this than it does to just shrug it off and carry on behaving as you have been. By getting help from a medical professional or rehab you will get guidance on how quickly you should withdraw from the substance, and you will have access to facilities and medication that can help. Even if you feel there is nothing to be gained from going to group sessions or counseling, going can still help you and it certainly will not do any damage. Furthermore it is a necessary evil if it is the only way to get professional guidance and other medications.

If you struggle with any of these methods though then there are other things you can do to help yourself over come the condition. Firstly counseling can help you get to the bottom of why you feel the need to use the medication. Again this might sound condescending, but even a physical addiction can be motivated by unconscious emotions and thoughts and these can add to the complex chemistry in your body. Again it is not anything to be ashamed of – it is something that happens to all of us, but you can choose to confront it or not.

Similarly changing your lifestyle can often help. Finding a ‘replacement’ addiction in something healthy like running, golf or stamp collecting can often help. Similarly it can be a good idea to get rid of numbers in your phone that are somehow connected to your using. For example numbers of friends who also use opiates, or of suppliers should be removed. Changing other things about your life can also help – such as changing your habits by getting up earlier or later or by eating throughout the day at different times. Some addictions can even be helped by moving home and while this may seem extreme and unrelated you would be surprised just how many ‘triggers’ there are in your life and how much changing these can help. At the same time it can make for a great symbolic ‘fresh start’. If you can not afford to move or do not want to then a holiday can have a similarly positive effect.

If you are still struggling to overcome the addiction then there might be more to this addiction – and it might be that you are genuinely still in pain. If this is the case then you need to find a substitution for your pain killers and you need to speak with your doctors about potential surgery or epidural etc that could help your condition.

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Adam Sinicki

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