Jan 30, 2013 | By Tim Stoddart

Quitting Painkillers Could be Life or Death

Painkiller Addiction


Painkiller addiction is an increasing problem in our society, and it’s certainly receiving more media attention than ever before. There’s a lack of understanding about the dangers of prescription painkillers—opioid drugs that are both extremely powerful and addictive.

Many people are prescribed painkillers for legitimate purposes like chronic pain or serious surgeries, then unknowingly become addicted. Prescription drug abuse is far too common. People from all walks of life become addicted to painkillers: kids raiding their parents medicine cabinets, recreational drug users experimenting with new highs, people in business suits who appear to have everything under control in their lives.

For some people, addiction is a product of chronic abuse. But, other users simply take their prescribed opioid painkillers for longer than is needed. In either case, if a user becomes physically dependent upon the drug, they’ll find that quitting painkillers is much more difficult than they imagined.

If you or a loved one is struggling to quit painkillers, it’s not too late to find help. Find sobriety and find happiness! Call 1 866 317-7050

The Painkiller Epidemic

In the United States, painkiller addiction is a problem so serious that it’s become an epidemic. With opioid abuse, there’s a very real risk of death. More people in the U.S. die each year from drug overdoses than car crashes, and opioids play the largest role in the death toll. At least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.


Nearly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses involving prescription painkillers.


PillsIn 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.


CalendarSince 1999, sales of prescription painkillers have quadrupled, though there hasn’t been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report.



Effects of Painkillers on the Body

Most painkillers are opioids—derived from the Asian opium poppy plant—which means they affect your body similarly to heroin:

  • dilated pupils
  • dry mouth
  • nausea, vomiting
  • itching
  • warm flush on the skin
  • feeling of heaviness
  • slow reaction time
  • slurred speech
  • foggy mental state
  • loss of appetite
  • sleepiness
  • slowed breathing and heart rate

Because opioids are so powerful, a user quickly develops a tolerance to the drug. In order to produce the same effect, the user needs higher doses of the drug, a more potent drug, or a more effective route of administration—like snorting or injecting the drug.

With chronic use of opioid painkillers, the body needs the drug in order to function and feel normal. This is known as physical dependence. Like with heroin abuse, if the user doesn’t get more of the drug, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Effects of Painkillers on the Brain

Opioid drugs decrease pain perception and increase pain tolerance by activating the opioid receptors in the brain. This can produce feelings of euphoria. Our opioid receptors are also activated in situations that help our bodies to survive—like when you’re exercising or under extreme physical distress and your body needs to push through the pain.

However, the painkilling effect produced by prescription painkillers is synthetic and significantly more intense. These drugs act upon the brain’s reward center—providing an enormous, synthetic reward that confuses the brain’s ability to find pleasure in natural rewards like food or sex. This is how opioid drugs can start a cycle of addiction and eventually become more important than all other concerns in a person’s life.

Because the opioid receptors are located at the brain stem, opioid drugs also depress the central nervous system in higher doses. They essentially slow down the body’s automatic processes (like breathing), placing a user in serious jeopardy as they increase dosage. Overdose is a major, immediate risk, but there are also serious long term effects with painkiller abuse.


Symptoms of Painkiller Withdrawal

If your body has developed a dependence on opioids, you can experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit painkillers. Your symptoms will range from mild to severe, based on the history of your opioid use. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • restlessness
  • muscle twitching, pain, or spasms
  • vomiting, diarrhea
  • constipation
  • increased appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • chills

It can take up to 10 days for your body to completely flush itself of opioid painkillers.

When you quit painkillers, there can also be psychological withdrawal symptoms like depression, anxiety, irritability, nightmares, and cravings. Sometimes these symptoms are extremely intense, and often last much longer than the physical withdrawal symptoms of quitting painkillers.

How to Quit Painkillers

If you want to quit painkillers, you should never attempt to do it on your own. Quitting “cold turkey” can be extremely dangerous, and may even cost you your life.

You should always consult with your doctor before you quit painkillers. They can help you come up with a plan to end your addiction safely and successfully.

In general, it’s best to attend a medical detoxification facility to quit painkillers. The medical staff will monitor your health as you detox, and can prescribe you medication that will help ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

There are some medications, such as Suboxone, that are prescribed to help people quit painkillers and find freedom from opioid dependence. Medications like these will eliminate withdrawal symptoms, while also blocking the effects of opioids on your body should you take them.

Safe, medical detox is crucial, but it’s only the first step to quitting painkillers.

Why Inpatient Rehab is Important

After you detox, inpatient rehab is the best option to begin your recovery and healing process. By checking into an inpatient facility, you’re placed in a safe, controlled environment where you can continue to cope with withdrawal symptoms. Most inpatient stays range from 30 days to 3 months. Statistically, longer stays in treatment are associated with longer-term sobriety.

Treatment can help you learn to adjust to a life without painkillers. Most treatment facilities offer addiction therapy in both group and individual sessions. They’ll teach skills to help you handle cravings and avoid relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn new techniques for managing pain and stress.

Any underlying issues that you might have like trauma, mental illness, behavioral disorders, or family problems will be addressed with the guidance of qualified therapists. They may also offer holistic therapy like massage or acupuncture.

Can’t I Quit Painkillers Without Going to Rehab?

It is possible to quit painkillers with the help of outpatient treatment centers—non-residential facilities or clinics that only offer treatment services during the daytime. However, it’s generally not the best method.

Some clinics give out Suboxone to people who are trying to quit painkillers, but there’s a high potential to misuse or abuse the drug without the constant medical supervision of inpatient treatment. Most people need more support while they transition to an entirely drug-free life, that doesn’t include painkillers or Suboxone.

If you want to quit painkillers, it is possible. A good support system is crucial. As you try to quit painkillers, you should ask for help when you need it. Friends and family members who do not abuse drugs should be made aware of your attempts to quit painkillers. Support groups, group therapy, counseling, and other types of treatment can help you stay off painkillers for good.

16 responses to “Quitting Painkillers Could be Life or Death

  • NarcoticsAnonymous meetings, EVERYDAY, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day!! Don’t quit quiting!

  • Good synopsis. Anyone who is in the “thinking” stages of absuing pain killers – stop right now…Now!…Not tomorrow or next week, or after the bottle runs out…Now…I was hooked on Percocet and Oxy for over three years – and I was alcoholic. Booze and pain killers ruined my life..the lives of my elderly parents (I stole pills from them), and my family ties will never – ever – be the same again. I did get help through detox, rehab and AA and NA….I now have almost 10 years clean and sober…What I wouldn’t do for that time back….You can do it. But do it now…today!

  • I have been sober for 15 months now the rooms of AA saved my life. I was an addict as well as a drunk before I totally surrendered… get help and help someone else.. God Bless…

    • I could use your help. My fiancé is currently addicted to pain killers. He’s trying to quit but I’m not sure how to help him. I’m scared if he quits on his own he will end up in the ER.

  • my name is aaron now,but a few years ago u minus well of called me a smart ass drug addicted to pain meds and finally got help as I seen nothing good happening in my life as a result,I ruined trust with my parents and friends. but the thing of it was I did not care,I found myself alone and would only think about myself, my life was going down hill fast,again just like alcohol I could see it coming to the end,and was so dishonest to myself it was not the alcohol no more or pain pills it was my way of thinking,so got on suboxin for pain and went a round with those,slowly tappered myself off and its been a couple years sence abuse,but I still have pain as a carpenter always does,but now as sick as I was I would never want to go back to that,it ruined me and others around me…just now learning how messed up I really was,ya aa,na works to keep u bussy and remember were u been but, u cant live there and go to work…so the best way I found is finding patience and being close to my creator….and plenty of vitamins and work outs…eating properly..just living like god intended me to….its a blessing and is no joke…….so stop what your doing becuz your about ruined unless u just like living that way…alway depending on something to pleas u……its called living and love it,theres no time to waist,no one knows u like u do and u just cant step out of old shoes into new,it takes time to heal…I am glad I am still alive…..

  • I need help this has been a long 14 yrs and my cousins going on 3 yrs clean and i’m sure he’s tired of hearing how i wanna get off opi’s FB me if you have any idea’s … johnbigham.336

  • After being sober 10 years I had to have major surgery on my back. I had stopped going to meeting and being around my support group. I’m an alcoholic and heroin addict. They doctors put morphine in my IV and my first thought was “Oh yeah! I remember this.” For the nest 15 months I abused Rx drugs to the point that I ended up in ICU on life support because I shut down my kidneys and other organs were failing. I was given my last rights and my 86 yr old parents were told to think about making arrangements for my funeral and if I were to pull threw I would be on dialysis for the rest of my life. By the grace of God I am sober today and healthy and very active in AA and HA. I guess God wasn’t done with me but more over didn’t want my parents to have to bury their son.

  • Everyone has their own way of working a program. As long as it works for them that’s what counts. John if I can help you any way please contact me at squats0217@aol.com. I can tell you how I got help and maybe it will help you. God bless all and 1 day at a time.

  • I went to treatment for 28 days to get off painkillers, then it was prescribed suboxone. It was a night mare for me to get off the suboxone when I lost my job and insurance. No one would help, not my doctor, not the company that makes suboxone, no one. I have been through hell to leave suboxone, it was more difficult than my original detox by far. Now I am trying to pick myself up and find a job before I am homeless. I once was a successful , rescepted teacher. Suboxone wasn’t my friend in the end.

  • Try kratom, i kicked 100 mg of methadone with just kratom, took kratom for a few weeks and stopped with no withdrawals at all…its a natural leaf that has been used for pain, energy,depression , opiate withdrawal etc in indinesia for hundreds of years…google it, i go to meetings, havesponsor, work steps etc and been clean 3 years..google kratom, all natural etc, suboxone was one of the worst withdrawals ive ever had…kratom saved my life and AA and god keep me sober…

  • Why wont u publiah my comments about kratom, it got me off 100 mgs of methadone with no withdrawals, then i stopped that and noe go to meetings everyday, have sponsor, speak at detoxes every wed and sat, worked my ateps qith a sponsor and sponsor people,,,3 years clean on Feb 2…Seems like anything that will help people off opiates should be allowed to be discussed…people talk about suboxone and that is worse than heroin to come off…this is biased gtoup and god forbid people get clean without supporting “Big Pharma” drugs….

  • fanen ude

    9 years ago

    am a Nigerian,I was introduced to painkillers since 2014 though the dosage I was living on was low.as the year was almost ending the more I was becoming used and addicted and by 2015 I could not live a day without taking 3/4 pills of 225mg.honestly am tired but unfortunately I can’t do otherwise because I have tried all I could and any day I try to bring down the dose am always on,it really pisses of.damn I hate the fuckin day I knew this bad drug.I really wanna quit.

  • Hey guys, My name is Debra and this is the beginning of a new life for me. Here is part of my story…

    I have been abusing lortab ,Norco, Percy for at the very least 10 years. In the beginning it was not an addiction or a need. I could hold onto 1 pill for a week as long as I had it with me I was okay…I am not sure when that changed but it did and I got to a place where I would take up to 6 a day depending on my day., and what mood I was in.

    I am an addict by default is what I call it. My entire family has an addiction of some kind be it alcohol, medicine, cigarettes, or all of the above. For me it has been all of the above. I started with smoking. I smoked until I was 30 years old so 15 years I am now 46 and am smoke free now 16 years. Next was alcohol. Again an almost everyday or every other day drinker until I was 32. I quit for 10 years. I relapsed a few years ago and still relapsing.

    The pills came in sometime at the age of 28 up until now, on and off again, never an ADDICTION until the last 5 years. 5 years way too long.

    Today I am * smoke free 10 plus years
    * pill free 6 DAYS
    * alcohol free is a work in progress
    I am a firm believer that we abuse these things to hide something deeper, We use our crutches to avoid the raw pain that comes along with that of what we are hiding either bc we dont want others to see it or bc we are not strong enough or ready enough to face it. Those demons are bitches Ill tell ya!!

    I will not be going into detail of what my demons are. I am aware of them, more so now then I ever was. Why? I am ready to take my life back, go back to being me, the strong me I know is hiding out someplace on the inside.

    Only a handful of people are aware that I am an addict, so I couldn’t ask advice on how to stop bc I didnt want anyone to know, fact of the matter is I think I was blind and all these around me werent. They know already.

    I knew that I was ready to start over when I took my last pill On Wednesday March 26th at somewhere between 5 and 8 am. I knew I was ready when I stopped myself several times on Wednesday and on Thursday from making that call, I stopped myself from getting in the car and making the drive to what I always called. My happy place. Which is funny bc i always called my medicine my happiness…..not so funny to hear that and to actually read that in fact it is sad very far place from happy…

    Today is April second, I have been both norco and Zanex free for 5 days, this is what I personally experienced cold turkey.

    Wednesday as I said I took my last norco, wed evening I took my last Zanex
    Thursday was a normal day nothing but the thinking about running out the door to get more, the only side effect was insomnia. I am an insomnia already, but this lack of sleep was def harder. Thursday night the insomnia started I slept 11 pm til 3 am, and was up until April 1st at 12am.

    I locked myself in my house from the 28th until this am (Sunday April 2)

    Friday I was just blah. No energy, no appetite, I just had a fog covering me. I wanted to get off the couch but could not do it . So I sat numbly staring at the tv all day, each hour a little longer than the next. The time was so slow. I was starting to get sore and had really bad muscle spasms and like I said a fogginess about me.

    Saturday April 1 Day 3
    Very heavy fogginess just weighing me down, I was disoriented, some depression, a great deal of thinking about the past, dizziness, no appetite, no thirst, Just blah here I am a waste of space… Fighting with myself to do something productive , go for a walk, work out anything but sit here like this…..nope I sat there.

    I did manage to shower and dust the house after that I was in so much discomfort. I felt like my nerve endings were touching the inner side of my flesh and just pulling and pulling. I was jerking and twitching I got very cold. I am hot natured so when I was freezing I knew this is what I signed up for and I was going to see it though. I am half way there I am not going back!!
    I ate a cookie….it was amazing so my senses are coming back to normal.

    Sunday April 2 Day 4.
    I slept last night!!! The best sleep I have had in years. I did not sleep all through the night but the sleep I got was well worth the few nights of no sleep….
    So far this am I am okay. I am a little uncomfortable, disoriented and dizzy when I stand but I did leave the house this am so I am on the right track…I am feeling a craving if you will to go get a pill….its not happening not today….to be continued

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