How to Quit Painkillers

It all started when your doctor prescribed a painkiller to make you feel more comfortable. Maybe you were in an accident or you were injured at work. Maybe you needed help recovering from surgery. But now you are dependent on that prescription medication. You crave it and you know it’s an addiction that you need to quit.

How Painkillers Work

Painkillers work by traveling to receptors in the brain and blocking the sensation of pain and inducing a euphoric state. Prescription painkillers actually alter the circuits that are responsible for mood and reward behavior.  In the past decade, there has been a huge spike in the number of prescriptions written for opioids and now misuse of opioid painkillers is considered to be the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Opioid drugs either contain extract from the opium poppy or chemical compounds designed to mimic that extract. They are highly successful in treating severe pain but they also carry a high potential for addiction or abuse. Some common generic names for opioid painkillers are morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Some of the brand names include Percocet, Vicodin, and Oxycontin.

Opioids can be very dangerous when they are abused because the amount of the drug needed to feel its effects and the amount of the drug it takes to suppress breathing and kill a person are not that different.

How to Quit

So how do you quit taking these painkillers? The first step is to stop taking them completely but that is easier said than done. It can be dangerous to quit a painkiller “cold turkey”. The brain becomes used to having opioids and stopping all at once can lead to seizures or an irregular heart rate.  Once you have committed to breaking the addiction, you will probably need a doctor’s supervision to wean yourself from your painkillers. A doctor may gradually reduce the dosage of the painkiller, or taper it, to lessen the body’s withdrawal symptoms.  Those symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, depression, runny nose, sweating, confusion, abdominal distress or enlarged pupils along with cravings for the drug. The symptoms aren’t dangerous but they can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable.

In some cases, doctors prescribe medications that help relieve symptoms as the body goes through detoxification. This is called Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT. Methadone is an example of a prescription drug used to help break the addiction. Along with MAT doctors employ behavioral therapy and other counseling as part of addiction treatment.

Healthy Habits

Whether your doctor has decided to taper the amount of the painkiller or is using other medication to assist in detox, there are some healthy habits the patient can practice during treatment. This includes drinking more water, eating healthy meals, practicing deep breathing or other relaxation techniques, getting moderate amounts of activity and promoting positivity. You can break this addiction and you need to believe in yourself.

Counseling

Addiction treatment doesn’t stop just because the substance is gone from your system. Counseling or therapy or some kind of behavioral support is necessary for long-term success free from addiction. Having a support system in place helps to eliminate or minimize relapse.

Principles Recovery Center

At Principles Recovery Center in Davie, Florida, our staff is expertly trained in breaking painkiller addiction. We offer inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment as the painkiller is eliminated from the patient’s body and the patient’s life. We follow that treatment with support including cognitive-behavioral therapy, multidimensional family therapy, motivational interviewing and contingency management.

Quitting painkillers isn’t easy. But at Principles Recovery Center we’ll be with you every step of the way.

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