How to Get Off of Opioid Pills
Would you like to get off of pain pills? Have you been taking pills for years and would like to try getting off? Maybe the pills are not helpful or useful any longer? Is it time to exit off the chemical dependency roller coaster? Whatever the reason, most of you cannot just stop taking opioid pain pills because your body is physically dependent on them. Suddenly discontinuing the usage of any chemical can create a serious stress reaction in the brain called withdrawals. In order to avoid such discomfort, you need to know how to get off of opioids safely.
Usually, the simplest, most painless way to get off of pills is to gradually cut back over time. For example, if you take 8 per day, take 7 per day for a month. The next month, take 6 per day and so on. Eventually, you will be down to one per day and can just step off from there. If you cannot taper all the way to zero pills because the pain is intolerable, that’s okay. At least you are taking a step towards taking less, and you can try to shave some more milligrams off at a later time. This approach is best started in the least painful time of the year. In my practice, I usually try to start medication tapers in the summer months when pain seems to be at a minimum.
For those that want a more rapid approach to getting off of opioids, I recommend a "detox" facility that can manage the withdrawal symptoms and provide the necessary support to see you to the chemical-free side of life safely. In order to be the bridge from a chemically-dependent life to chemically-free life, treatment facilities usually use other medications such as Phenobarbital, promethazine, gabapentin and others to blunt the withdrawal effects. It is not a painless way to get off of medications, but it is effective, safe, and quick.
If ripping or taking gradual steps off of opioids are not good options for you, you might want to consider a "parachute" medication called Buprenorphine. This medication is a replacement for what you are already on and allows for a quick decent off of the opioid chemicals. Buprenorphine is an effective exit strategy because it is stable and safe.
However, none of these strategies work without a comprehensive exit plan. Those that have pain need other ways to manage pain without opioids like zero-gravity chairs, home exercise programs, and healthy habits. Those that are struggling with addiction need recovery services to provide new coping skills, counseling, and a life-long commitment to sobriety. Sometimes getting off of opioid medications is a scary but necessary step to a happier, healthier life. Discuss with your doctor about what is the right strategy for you if you want to get off of opioid medications.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.