Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH on 06/20/2022
How Can I Wean Myself Off of Opioid Pain Medication?
Throughout the opioid crisis, millions of people have struggled to balance opioid dependency and pain management. Frequently, it can feel like choosing between addiction or pain when the goal is to prolong neither. This article discusses weaning off opioid pain medication and how nobody has to do it alone.
Substance dependency is a complex disease that is difficult for anyone to overcome. But it is possible to recover. Unfortunately, abuse of opioids and pain medication is rampant throughout the U.S. Tapering off pain medication requires strength and resolve and a healthy treatment program.
Pain medication can be effective when properly prescribed and used. However, many of them are highly addictive and easy to abuse. Opioids can contribute to damage to your physical and mental health. However, there are ways to maintain sobriety. Understanding the difference between prescriptions and over-the-counter opioids is essential and how to detox from opioid pain medication properly is essential.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction or you have questions about the effects of opiates, please reach out to us at 405-583-4390. We can help you find the right treatment program for your individual needs.
The Problem of Opioid Abuse
Opioid addiction is described as a compulsive disorder of using opiates when they are no longer needed for their intended medical purposes.
Due to family history, some people may be more prone to become addicted to substances. Before taking an opioid prescription, be sure to consult with your doctor. Genetics can play a role in addiction and it can be important to address with your primary physician.
Prescription opioids are just as easily misused as illicit opiates. People who become addicted to opiates may prioritize using these drugs over other aspects of their lives. Their arrangement of priorities could influence their career, as well as how they manage both professional and personal relationships.
Opiates alters the brain chemistry. If someone uses these substances regularly their tolerance for the drug will increase. Therefore, causing them to increase their dosages to achieve and experience the same euphoria they initially felt the first time.
Opioids are the most effective pain medication in the medical field. Doctors typically prescribe a form of opioids to patients who have undergone a surgery, severe injury, or are living with a condition that causes continuous pain.
There are many forms of opioid pain medication.
- and Fentantyl.
Fentanyl is in a different category, itself. The opioid is more powerful than any other form of painkiller. It is typically prescribed to patients who are fighting cancer, or are suffering from severe pain.
Effects of Opioids
Constipation is the most frequently experienced side effect of opioids. Other common side effects include:
- Damaged immune system
If a person is abusing opioids along with additional substances (or alcohol), it can complicate things. Mixing drugs can either increase the severity of side effects or create entirely new ones.
The Basics of Opioids
Common Opioid Use
Everybody knows pain. Many people naturally seek remedies to reduce their discomfort. You might have suffered from an injury or undergone a surgery. Woman use Ibuprofen to reduce their symptoms of menstrual cycle and athletes may use them to recover from sports related pain.
People use opioids to help relieve their suffering, regardless if it is long-term or short-term. While opioids do the job for relieving pain, they are dangerous to keep at hand.
Opioids are a class of synthetic substances that reduce severe levels of pain. The class of drugs include both illicit and legal substances.
In addition to relieving pain opioids can produce a euphoria sensation. Because they can make people feel more relaxed, opiates are frequently abused or used for non-medical purposes.
It is this reason that makes opioids easy to abuse.
In 2016, a study found that over 11 million people claimed that they misused opioid prescriptions within the year.
Taking opiates over a long period of time can create dependence. If people who regularly take opioids stop using opioids, then they will experience serious physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms can have a big impact on your physical and mental state.
Removing opiates from your system will greatly impact your body, physically.
Starting the withdrawal process, an addict may experience elevated levels in their blood pressure, body temperature, and heartrate. Their eyes may begin to water, become dilated, and their nose may be runny. They can experience symptoms of the flu as well as insomnia. People can also experience stomach cramps, feeling shaky, and having goosebumps appear on their skin.
An addict can also become anxious, delusional, and experience frequent seizures.
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are nearly identical/similar to many other opiates such as codeine, morphine, and fentanyl.
It is important to understand that withdrawal symptoms vary. It depends on the duration someone has been using opiates.
Symptoms can show up within 12 hours after your last dose of opioids and last up to more than two weeks. For some recovering addicts, the symptoms start to get better after a few days.
If an EMT or medical professional administer a drug to overturn an opioid overdose, then the person may experience worse symptoms.
How Opioids Can Impact Your Life
Though it may sound like a good idea, quitting “cold turkey” can have consequences.
Quitting opioids while not under medical supervision is not recommended. It can be dangerous and cause severe damage to your health. There are some warning signs of an emerging addiction you or others may notice.
There are many ways opioids can affect your physical health. While taking opiates you might experience compulsive cravings for the substance. Poor eating habits and weight loss often go hand-in-hand with addiction. You may experience flu-like symptoms or experience drowsiness.
Opioid use can affect your mental health. An addict may experience changes in their sleep patterns and hygiene routine.
Other areas of your life can be impacted as well. Opioid addiction can affect your sexual drive and alter your exercise habits. You can influence your family as well. An addict may steal form their family, friends, or even their job to get their fix. Unfortunately, many people with substance abuse issues choose to isolate themselves from the people who care about them.
Before tapering off opioids, it is best advised to seek medical assistance. Talk to your doctor and see what your options are.
Over the Counter (OTC)
Just because you can’t use opioids or addictive doesn’t mean you have to live with pain. There are plenty of nonaddictive drugs that you can obtain in order to help relieve pain
The most widely used pain medication are over the counter (OTC) drugs. OTC pain meds are conventional because you can purchase them without a prescription. The OTC drugs that are frequently purchased include Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Acetaminophen.
Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs are frequently used to reduce swelling, fever, and prevent blood clots.
Though they are known to relieve pain and reduce inflammation,
NSAIDs are renowned for causing bleeding in the stomach, and kidney damage. This typically occurs to people who use the drug regularly.
Ibuprofen is another widely used NSAID.
Because it is quick to act and leave the body (which lowers the rick of side effects), it is the most effective NSAID.
Similar to aspirin, Ibuprofen can cause bleeding in the stomach and kidney damage.
Acetaminophen is another NSAID that is frequently used. The drug is commonly found in cold and sinus medications.
Acetaminophen does not cause bleeding in the stomach. However, it can cause liver damage if you take too or drink alcohol with it.
It is significant to take the right dose of medications and follow the instruction on the label. To reduce the risks of experiencing side effects of any medication, you might even consider consulting with your doctor before taking OTC pain medication.
How to Stay Sober
Maintaining sobriety from tapering off pain medication can be difficult to manage. It takes more than yourself to achieve a healthy and successful sobriety. Keeping community and seeking aid from medical experts will help you to sustain a sober life.
You know the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same can be said about people who struggle with substance abuse.
A crucial part of living a healthy and drug-free life is having a support system. Surrounding yourself with people who encourage you makes all the difference in recovery.
You might want to consider telling your family about your sobriety goals, and the life you want to live.
Also, share with your friends too. Ask them to hold you accountable when you’re near temptation’s edge.
The best support system comes from having people who love and care about you. People who want to cheer you on your road to recovery.
Remember, “It takes community to maintain sobriety.”
There Is Always Hope
Seeking professional proves to help people maintain their sobriety. Looking for the right treatment program is crucial to recovering from opioid addiction.
You might want to consider consulting with an expert. Asking them questions can help you find the best treatment that will fulfill your individual needs.
Tapering off pain medication is difficult for anyone to go through. No matter how long someone has been using them.
It takes great strength and resolve to know when to stop, as well as to maintain sober through the withdrawal process.
Recovery can be painful to endure. A recovering addict needs a support system to better maintain their sobriety. Having the support of their community to encourage them is crucial to their achievement of living a healthy life.
Nobody is in the fight alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid abuse, or have any questions on the topic, call us at 405-583-4390. Our experts and staff are here to answer any questions that you may have about opiates. They have greater impacts on peoples’ lives than some may think. Let us help you fight this battle.
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