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Some of us out there have chronic pain conditions, whether it be from injury or sickness. In some cases, the surgery or procedure to cure the problem is so expensive that in order to remain functional, we have to resort to taking painkillers.

The problem is that the painkillers used by people suffering from chronic pain aren’t the usual over-the-counter medicine that just takes the edge off. They involve the use of opioids such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and other formulations. These drugs are extremely effective in reducing, or downright eliminating the pain sensations, but using them long enough will lead to dangerous complications.

Effects of Continued Opioid Use

  • Tolerance

Our body is designed to keep the balance between every chemical the body naturally creates. It also adapts to exposure of toxins and other unwanted substances by creating more countermeasures, such as how our immune system works.

This also affects opioid intake. The more we take painkillers, the more enzymes and antibodies the body creates to counter it. This leads to lesser effects and shorter durations. In order to get the same effect, we need to increase the dosage, increasing the risks.

  • Hyperalgesia

Taking too many painkillers can make you more sensitive to pain. Consider it as your brain “forgetting” how to tolerate pain. This makes your pain receptors more excitable, so when the drug’s effects are not present, pain sensations will fire faster, stronger, leading to higher pain sensation.

  • Liver and Kidney Toxicity

Blood from your intestines flows through your liver, allowing it to detect toxins and release chemicals to turn it into harmless compounds. If your liver gets exposed enough, it can be susceptible to scarring, damage and other conditions such as cancer, but it’s rare. Same can be said about the kidneys, as their job is to filter toxins out of your blood. Continuous exposure can cause eventual damage. Though it may take longer for the organs to sustain damage, the danger is that the damage can be permanent.

  • Addiction

The most common effect of continued exposure to painkillers. Since opioids also provide a feeling of pleasure and good well-being, it can become either an escape mechanism or a functional requirement. The absence of the drug will cause anxiety, followed by withdrawal effects, that further push a person into taking more drugs.

So, to avoid all these effects from happening, how do you safely quit opioid use? What if you need it to manage your pain? There are several ways to quit painkiller dependence, catering to a variety of living conditions.

Planning Stage

Before you stop, you need to ensure that you’ll have a system to follow. This is especially important to those already addicted to the painkillers. Expect the quitting process to be challenging, as your body’s own detoxification process can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, headaches, and heavy anxiety. Here are the things you need to prepare first, beforehand.

  • Learn about the Drug and Withdrawal

Like what you’re doing right now. Learning more about the drug you’re taking and the withdrawal associated will help you manage your does once you start quitting. The basics you have to learn is that withdrawal starts as early as 6 hours after the drug’s effect has passed. If your painkiller is designed to work for 8 hours, 14 hours after you take the pill, you’ll start feeling the effects.

The possible immediate symptoms are as follows:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Sweats and hot flashes
  • Hypertension
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased pain sensations due to hyperalgesia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Cravings

After a day or two, you might experience the following symptoms, in combination with the immediate ones.

  • Stomach Aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and stronger bouts of anger
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Overall “weak” feeling.
  • Extreme cravings

Learning about withdrawal and knowing what to expect can drastically reduce your anxiety levels when undergoing withdrawal. If your symptoms get worse, or you experience significantly different symptoms, consult your physician.

  • Quantify your pain and painkillers

Write down how you take your painkiller, how much and how frequent. Examples are that you take one 30 mg codeine pill, during noon, after a meal and after dinner, before you sleep. Then take note of the side-effects you feel like increased drowsiness in the afternoon, headaches in the morning, or constipation.

Then, you write a scale of how much pain you feel during the entire day: like 8/10 when you wake up, 0/10 after you take the first drug, 2/10 in the afternoon, 0/10 when you take the second dose, 1/10 before you sleep.

Finally, take note of common activities that cause pain, and relieves pain. For example, when you stand too long you experience pain, and you tend to feel better after watching an episode or two of David Attenborough’s calming documentaries.

This is essentially a journal of how you manage your pain. This is so you are aware how much substance you’re taking per day, and when you need to take the product the most. This is especially useful for doctors and addict specialists when devising new ways to alter your dosage.

  • Consult your physician

Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t try to quit without professional help. This applies even to people who took opioids for recreation and found themselves becoming dependent. There are cases where a user might experience severe withdrawal, even just after a week of taking the drugs. Others might experience seizures, especially when they quit cold turkey.

Your physician might order some test firsts, to ensure that you won’t have any complications. A small infection can bloat into something troublesome when you undergo withdrawal.

  • Plan your system

Once you are aware of your drug’s effects, what to expect from withdrawal, and your physician’s advice, you’re ready to make your program. There are many methods, but the important is you prepare the following:

  • Medication and methods to alleviate your withdrawal symptoms
  • Someone to supervise you and to control your dosage. Unless you can do it yourself
  • A plan on when to take the medications, and how to keep you from taking more than what’s needed.
  • Emergency contacts and procedures in case something happens to you
  • Arranged a leave from your work, as the process will leave you nonfunctional for a week or two.
  • Arranged your home or environment be as stress-free as possible. This includes cleaning up clutter and fixing annoyances like leaky faucets.
  • Arranged your diet for the week. Depending on your physician’s advice, they may ask you to eat more of something or avoid eating something. A high nutrient and mineral diet is always good.
  • Support from the people close to you. Moral support can significantly increase chances of successful recovery
  • Activities that will help you get your mind off drugs. At least one physical activity is recommended, like a certain sport or working out.

How to Detox at Home?

Once you’ve done your preparations, you can proceed with picking out what method to take. For now, we’ll provide the effective procedures of quitting, in the comforts of your home. This has a key advantage of placing you where you’re most comfortable, reducing anxiety. Though this is not advised for addicts whose stressors and triggers happen within the home, as it will reduce the chances of success. In those cases, consider doing the detox somewhere away, like in a relative’s place.

  • Cold Turkey

This involves straight out dropping the drug use. This is not the most effective method and could be considered the riskiest. This, however, is what some people have to go through when they run out of supply and have no choice but to drop the habit.

During this stage, you’ll experience the full brunt of withdrawal, but as long as you have made your preparations and have a system to stick to, you should come out of it relatively unharmed. Watch yourself and if you feel any symptoms that are out of place, call your physician ASAP.

  • Tapering

Perhaps the best way to quit your addiction or dependence at home. This involves gradually reducing your drug use over time. For example, you take 50 ml of the drug per day. You reduce the amount to 40 ml for a week or two, then 30 ml for a week or two, and so on. You keep doing this until you don’t take the drug anymore. This method dramatically reduces withdrawal symptoms, even to a point where it’s non-existent. The key is to allow the body to adapt to the lower dosage.

One key to maintaining this method is dosage control. If you have the willpower to control your own dosage, then all is well. In case you don’t trust yourself, (which is perfectly natural) find someone who can consistently provide the dosage, and won’t budge no matter how hard you beg.

Those are the two methods for quitting. They may seem simple but they are effective. You can complement these procedures by taking natural detoxifying supplements. Your physician may also prescribe valium and antidepressants to make sure you’re evened out during the process, as psychological conditions are often harder to endure than physical ones. Once your body has properly flushed all the toxins out of your body and achieved normal homeostasis, your withdrawal symptoms will fade.

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