There are a number of uncomfortable physical symptoms typically associated with withdrawing from painkillers, whether the addiction is the result of prolonged medical use or abuse of the drugs. People getting off painkillers may experience vomiting, insomnia, sweating, diarrhea, runny noses, anxiety, and muscle aches. Some people may also feel a psychological urge to take more painkillers. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome withdrawal from painkillers.
Contact your doctor, especially if he or she is the one who prescribed you the painkillers. If you do not have a doctor, consider visiting a local health clinic or emergency room. For severe cases of painkiller dependency, you may want to seek a drug rehab facility. The United States Department of Health and Human Services offers a free online Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator (see Resources below) to aid people seeking help with a drug problem.
Follow any instructions given for withdrawing from painkillers. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may be advised to gradually lower the dose until you can completely stop the pills without feeling uncomfortable physical side effects. Some health care professionals may recommend you quit using the drugs “cold turkey,” which is uncomfortable but not usually life-threatening. Additional medications including methadone, clonidine, and buprenorphine may be prescribed in your case. Take them as directed. Methadone patients may need to visit a clinic each day to get their dosage. If this is the recommended course of treatment for you, be sure to keep your appointments.
Attend meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and/or SMART Recovery (see Resources below) for emotional support during your time withdrawing from painkillers. Such groups are run confidentially and on an optional donation basis.
Consider having a psychiatric evaluation. If you do not have insurance or sufficient income, your local Social Services office may be able to help you with a number of possible physical and mental health treatment options. Untreated depression and other mental illnesses can lead people to relapse into drug abuse even after successfully completing physical withdrawal. If you are prescribed psychiatric medication, take the pills as directed.
Entering therapy may also be helpful when withdrawing from painkillers. Your doctor, social worker, or emergency room staff can help you find the right counselor for your needs. Be sure to keep any appointments made.