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How to Stop Taking Pain Pills on Your Own

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A doctor writes notes down for his patient.
You should never stop taking painkillers cold turkey. Rather, get a plan from your doctor and slowly wean yourself off of them.

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First, let’s talk about who shouldn’t stop taking painkillers on their own. If you’ve been taking more than your doctor prescribed, getting them from friends or buying them on the street, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re addicted. When that happens, most people need to seek help to recover safely.

But let’s say you had back surgery and have been taking Vicodin for a month to control your pain. You’ve been taking it exactly as your doctor prescribed and, yet, you’ve become physically dependent on it. You know that because if you skip a dose, the symptoms of opiate withdrawal kick in pretty quickly. You crave the pills and experience body aches, nausea and the chills. You’re agitated and in a pretty bad mood.

Although you are clearly physically addicted at this point, it is still possible to safely detox from pain pills at home.

Avoid Cold Turkey Detoxes

No doctor would advise simply stopping your pain medication. Within six hours, withdrawal symptoms would kick in and last up to 10 days, putting you at risk for dehydration and unnecessary suffering.

Instead, consult your doctor and come up with a plan to slowly and safely wean yourself off of the pills. This plan might be slightly different for everyone, depending on the reason you began taking the pills and other medical conditions you might have, but most doctors will recommend you do some version of the following:

  • For long-acting pain medication, you can slowly reduce the dose you are taking. For example, if you were taking your medication three times a day, reduce to twice a day for four to five days. Then, cut back to once a day for another four to five days. When you’re down to once a day, try stopping. It’s important to note that you should never cut, crush or chew this kind of medicine.
  • For short-acting (immediate release) medication, the best approach is to begin increasing time between doses. If you’ve been taking it every four hours, for example, start by increasing that time to five or six hours for two days. Next, increase the time between doses to seven or eight hours. After you’ve done that, the next step is to reduce your dose. If you’ve been taking two pills, cut back to one pill for one pill for two days. If you are taking only one pill, cut it in half for one or two days and then try stopping.

While this is the kind of plan you can expect your doctor to give you, it’s important to consult your physician before attempting to stop taking prescription painkillers.

Home Remedies for Withdrawal from Pain Pills

Even with a plan to wean yourself off pills slowly and safely, you may still feel some mild withdrawal symptoms, especially once you completely stop taking the pills.

There are, however, things you can do to feel better.

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-rich diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables. Take a multi-vitamin. Go to the gym or for a long walk to release your body’s natural endorphins. Take long baths or showers to sooth muscle aches. Even better, treat yourself to a massage. Make sure you get lots of sleep. Spend time outside and soak up the sunshine—and vitamin D.

When You Need Help

It can be easy to slide into a true painkiller addiction. If you are mentally and physically addicted to pain pills, there is help. Fill out our form or call today if you’re interested in learning more about the painkiller addiction treatment at The Raleigh House.

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