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Coming off the drugs. Advice please

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Pain Medications

I had surgery in January and came off the morphine in June. It was a long slow process but I did it!

To replace the morphine, I was put on dihydrocodeine and diclofenac and paracetemol and valium (at night).

I am now addicted to the dihydrocodeine and valium. I don't want to be so decided to come off these slowly. The withdrawal symptoms for these two are far worse than the morphine. I am now on a liquid oral version as I can regulate the dose far easier with a syringe than a pill-cutter.

So, I am now down to 6ml dihydrocodeine (10mg=5ml) twice a day plus 5ml valium (10ml=4mg, so 2mg) once a day plus diclofenac twice a day and paracetemol twice or three times a day depending on the pain.

I use a tens machine too.

My back comes and goes - some days better than others but the withdrawal symptoms for this regime are foul. I have constant diarrhoea, feel sick, sweats, haven't slept for weeks, restless, miserable, etc. Morphine was much easier than this.

I don't know what to do. Whether to just say, sod it and stop the valium and dihydrocodeine and just sweat it out and be miserable - I am doing that anyway, so perhaps it is better to finish or to keep drittling away at it, coming down 1ml every 4 days and feeling like shit all the time. I don't dare drive because I have slept so little. I manage to ride my horse out and about taking the dogs for a walk in the hills on good days. I am trying to lead a normal life, I try and do lots of exercise to exhaust myself so I will sleep but I don't sleep much and am so, so tired.

I need sleep. I burst into tears at anything (crying while I type this FFS!). I am in a bad place.

So, the question really is should I just stop the lot (dihydrocodeine and valium) - can I feel any worse? Or should I keep coming down a little at a time. The pain is worst first thing in the morning and around 6pm at night. It is controlled with the paracetemol and diclofenac but tbh, I get so tired, then that doesn't work either and I look longingly at my bottle of morphine, forgetting what it took me to get off that stuff.

Any advice? Anyone?


  • as lay people we carnt advise on individual dosages of medication but the one thing i would like to ask you is ,,why are you so keen to come off drugs when you are still in pain ?? that's not addiction that's a requirement and addict takes drugs to satisfy a craving when he or she is not in pain {for arguments sake} my last operation was nearly 2 years ago and i have had to increase my medication as i am still in a lot of pain ..this is common amongst people that have gone through back surgery .if i were you i would go to your doctors and have a chat ..are you in pain .?if the answer is yes then sort your drugs out don't try to be brave and come off them as you will do more harm than good {no one wants to be taking medication but sometimes is a necessity}
  • Thank you, Straker.

    Why do I want to come off the drugs? Good question. Because I come from a family of hard addicts (alcohol and drugs) and I can't bear the thought of being one too.

    I want to control my pain, which I believe I can, using non-addictive drugs, like diclofenac or brufen and/or paracetemol.

    I am active. I go horse-riding most days. Ok, I am stiff in the mornings but I can get through that and I don't like what the drugs do to my bowels, to my head and to my liver. I hallucinate, I am constipated to the point of using enemas and I am not seeing the true picture of my health. Once I do, I can assess the pain and its control rather than mask it blankly without having an idea of how much pain I am actually in. I must be getting better, time is healing the operation and the damage done before, but I have no idea how much is actual pain I am in if I just take the drugs no matter what.

    I would rather take painkillers when I am in pain rather than on a constant.

    These are just my thoughts. I am well aware of my genetics and the ability my body has to latch on to any narcotic. I hate that. Before the prolapse, I was on minimum anything and would seek alternatives rather than take pills. Once my back gave out, I was on morphine and valium, etc and then dihydrocodeine. It is more about me trying to take back some control and to make the decisions.

    As for doctors, I haven't seen my gp since February. They are not interested and would write me a prescription for anything I asked for without questioning it or talking to me. I think that is very sad but such is life.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Hi Frances
    I can't offer any advice, but I can say there is plenty of support and information to help you here on the site.
    I wish you luck
    Take care

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Do you have any access to acupuncture? I detoxed off of opioids and as part of that, my PM doc used Clonidine to ease withdrawl symptoms and acupuncture. The acupuncture is auricular which means it is done in the ears. I was someone who did not believe in acupuncture until it was used on me and I saw such an immediate response. I hadn't been able to sleep in weeks and during my first treatment I fell asleep. That night I slept 3 hours which was incredible. Over a period of a couple of months, I was able to battle the withdrawl symptoms, restart the natural endorphins in my body and find a way to sleep a lot more. It was directly related to the acupuncture.

    Good luck.

  • Thank you, everyone, for your support and advice.

    Acupuncture - I will investigate - I have had it before but it was from my gp who had done a coffee morning and she made me scream. There is someone who is much better at it on our island, so I will phone her and see what like.

    GP - well, no interest there. They change every week so there is no consistency in care just a different idea or approach every week from a complete stranger or my gp. I find that difficult if I can't talk to the same person each week or month as they have no clue what I have been through.

    I have set out my plan and I will stick to it. I am bloody minded enough and I have set aside many weeks/months until I am off. Life has very little expectations of me at the moment so I am using this time to sort myself out so that I see what I am really up against, as opposed to the fake "reality" that is the every day opiate pain-killers I am addicted to and stuck on.

    Anyway, again, thank you for your support. I am feeling stronger and ready to continue my fight. I just wish the diarrhoea would stop and I could sleep. I crave sleep more than anything. It cures everything for me and I don't seem to be allowed to.
  • It took a while for the intestines to settle for me. After such a long time of them being hammered with different meds, they seem to rebel at the removal. My doc suggested a diet of vegetables, protein, carbs and fruit. The combination of that helped not only fight the intestinal issues, but gave my body the fuel it needed to help battle the withdrawl. One of my favorites was a good thick peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some apple and cheese slices on the side. Also some celery with peanut butter on it.

    Let us know how your quest goes.

  • Thank you for all your wise words. All helpful.

    Funnily enough I bought some celery last week and haven't touched it. I will dig it out and fix on a good even diet. I try to keep up the veg but with the diarrhoea, that tends to put me off.

    I also have a blocked nose - thought I was getting a cold so have been eating echinacea! I then discovered a list of side effects of withdrawal from dihydrocodeine and I had just about every single one. Foul stuff.

    I will go on with this. I think this forum will be a place of support for me to keep going. Sometimes I feel very alone doing all this as there is very little information out there - or at least I can't find it.

    I live day to day, expecting very little but trying to always achieve something I can be proud of by the evening, even if it is just walked the dogs and put the washing out!

    Thanks again - appreciated.
  • i am sorry to hear of you family problems with addiction {i have an alcoholic mother }but that dose not make me and alcoholic {i don't even drink!}.but i do see you point ..and as you have mentioned ..and i did not realise that you are so active ..horse ridding etc so i think that you could manage on weaker drugs or maybe you have a high pain threshold?what ever your decision you can be assured that you will always have the backing of the wonderful people here at spine health .and i speak for all off us in wishing you all the best in your quest for a pain killer free life ..good luck my friend
  • Hi Frances,

    When C speaks, I listen. She has written so many wise things over the months that I've been on the forums. So take note.

    C - Good input! I am reading this thread because I really relate to Frances and what she is going through. Hearing to try acupuncture when I have an appt already and thinking of cancelling is very helpful. So is the diet suggestion.

    Anyone of us may need to go off our meds at any time for many reasons. Glad I can count on getting good ideas from my online friends.
  • Well, I been for my weekly shop. I bought some nice pampering bath things, mud mask for detoxing skin. Then lots of fruit juice and fresh fruit and veg. I cook all my own food anyway - we are basically organic with no rubbish food.

    I stopped the morning dose of dihydrocodeine on the grounds that I couldn't feel any more sick or running for the loo more than I do! 36 hours on and I haven't felt worse, just miserable and grotty still, so I will drop the last night dose in a few days and then drop the valium down again.

    I spoke to a pharmacist who let me buy some herbal sleeping pills that I have taken before and she said they would go fine with the valium so wish me luck on going to sleep at a normal hour!
  • first of all a paindr will help with weaning you off meds. it is part of their job. you should never do it on your own. second there is something called rapid detox where they inject meds while you are asleep and when you wake, you are off meds. i don't understand why you are not getting help with this. i have weaned myself off and also quit cold turkey and it only lasted a couple of days. it was not horrible at all. i was irritable had diareah and has some sleep problems. at most it was 3-4 days. do you have a pain dr to help? if not why not? my pain dr's always helped their patients off meds
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • The rapid detox is not for someone who is on low dose opioids and it carries with it an extreme risk of injury and possibly death. Without a good support system for after the procedure, it has a high relapse rate as well. It also does not preclude the individual from the majority of withdrawl symptoms either. It is a long long ways away from simply going to sleep and waking up drug free. I'd be more than happy to discuss this with you if you are interested.


  • Well, today I feel positively positive!

    I had celery for lunch (and a tomato, hummus on wholemeal homemade role). I went riding with the dogs - just walk and tölt (yes, he is an Icelandic). I have done a variety of chores and drunk a couple of pints of green tea with mint.

    Then I found a recipe for turmeric and ginger tea so made two cups of that, which have left me feeling very well.

    I have only taken 2 paracetemol today. I dumped my morning dose of dihydrocodeine coz I forgot to take it and don't feel any different. A bit sweaty at night but nothing too bad. I feel far less nauseous today which is good and I don't crave anything.

    I read that turmeric is really good for you so I am going to try and take it every day.

    It is now the evening and I don't have much pain. I will take my evening dihydrocodeine dose and valium and possibly start to lower that over the next few days until there is nothing.

    As for pain doctors, well, my doctor has not seen me since February so I am going to do this on my own as I have constantly asked about being referred to a Pain Clinic but they have never done it.
  • Gosh, I feel really ill now.

    Can't decide if I want to throw up or just take up residence on the toilet.

    Life is bad. :(
  • Hi Frances,
    I hope you are feeling better. You must be somewhere in Great Brit by your cute words like loo. I live on the west coast, so the time would now have you up when I'm due for bed.

    Did you get a good night's rest? It is possible that some of your new herbal teas are adding to your misery? When you are done with the pain med taper, you may not have a problem. It's just a guess. I hope I am wrong. It seems with all the new things you are trying that maybe one could be why you feel badly. You may want to cut back one or two and see if it helps.

    When you are feeling better, I'd be interested in your tea recipe for ginger and tumeric. Sounds yummy and I've heard both are good for pain reduction.
  • Hi Dee

    I live in Shetland - Britain's most northerly islands. Somewhere in the Atlantic/North Sea between Faroe and Norway!

    I got to sleep eventually, around 2am having resorted to imodium (holiday pills) to block me up. I slept until 09.30 this morning. So not too bad, though I have a headache now which I am trying to ignore.

    Ginger and Turmeric tea - well, it is ok. But now I have been told you must drink lots of water and turmeric can give you kidney stones. If it isn't one thing, it is another! So I am drinking Green Tea as well.

    The recipe.


    2 cups water
    1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
    1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric
    1 tablespoon maple syrup
    Juice of 1/2 lemon

    1. Bring water to a boil, then add powdered herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes.

    2. Strain tea into a mug, add maple syrup and lemon, stirring to combine. Drink warm.

    Makes 1 serving

    I didn't have maple syrup so used honey instead.

  • I hope you are feeling better as the day goes on. Our bodies are certainly a balancing act and as "D" said, it doesn't take much to upset that balance.

    I too enjoy drinking good green tea, minus the sweetner and either hot or cold. Living in Japan for 15 years gave me an true appreciation for what green tea and ginger can do for a person. One of my favorite cold weather meals, is a steaming bowl of yasisoba (vegetable soup with noodles)with lots of ginger on top and hot green tea. Better than chicken soup any day!

    Sorry you had to resort to imodium, however if this is all generated from withdrawl, it should just calm the storm and not block things up completely.

  • "Calm the storm" - yes, I like that idea!

    I am trying to reduce everything with the theory that if I feel like crap, then I can't feel much worse and I would rather just get everything over and done with rather than sign up to feeling like crap over and over again.

    This weekend is the end of the dihydrocodeine. Next weekend is the end of the valium.

    I have stopped the diclofenac and am living of paracetemol when the pain gets too bad and trying to rest.

    I am trying not to take anything when I feel sick but sometimes resort to phenergan.

    I suppose being a Brit, none of these drug names mean anything to anyone, but it is good for me to write this all down because it makes it more real and pro-active rather than just ordinary survival!
  • I read your post from Tuesday and shuddered...

    Not that I don't applaud your efforts, but doing this dedrugification on our own has it's pitfalls. That list of changes just screamed out to me that something in that mix was going to bring discomfort!

    I have done my share of starting and stopping meds over these last two decades or so. I have learned, one thing at a time and in moderation makes it all go so much smoother! Be aware of when stopping a med is the wrong thing to do. We may not like taking some of the things we take, but when stopping them is worse...not the detox part mind you, but the well being part.

    Overall, I really do applaud your efforts and am glad you are feeling better!
  • I hear you. I am listening and I coming to the conclusion that I agree. I just want to go faster than perhaps I should because I hate this no-man's land of not feeling the benefits, just the misery and the pain coming back.

    I hate all the side-effects when on them and when coming off them.

    I have absolutely no guidance from my gp at all. This is because they are not interested at all. They might as well be legalised drug dealers, tbh.
  • Hi Frances,

    So I was correct that you are from the other side of the pond so to speak. :-D Shetland, up north... sounds beautiful.

    Thank you for taking the time to type out the recipe for the tea. It sounds yummy and I can smell it in my head. Perhaps I'll make some this weekend. Right now I am juggling ice packs and do not feel like doing anything that takes more effort than that. But I will save the recipe or get my daughter to make some for me.

    Since the doctors there are no help, if you need medicine advice again, consider doing what I do. Ask the local pharmacist. And I love that you called taking imodium to block yourself up, taking "holiday pills". Ha, ha!

    Glad you are feeling better. Hang in there.

    Since "C" is my hero and she called me "D" instead of Dee, I will sign myself as:
  • Sorry to call you "Dee". I thought since that was on your signature, that was your name. But, from henceforth, you shall be known as "D" or D depending on what social niceties permit.

    Anywho, crap day today. I ache therefore I am!

    I feel so sick. Nothing much helps. Last night I thought I had a broken ankle my sciatica hurt so much!

    This is getting me down alot now so that I have booked into a spa for 24 hours for a health treatment next week! I need something to make me feel better. Sauna, massage, underwater stuff, etc. I can't wait. Roll on the pampering.
  • Sounds like you are whipping the giant!! I would pamper myself too!!
    I am so sorry you have had to go through this. I too applaud you. =D>
    Best of luck to you.
    Patsy W :H
  • 36 hours off dihydrocodeine. Down to 1.5mg of Valium. I "control" the pain now on a mixture of diclofenac (Voltarol) and paracetemol, though I am waiting until I am in pain before I take anything rather than just taking things regularly for the sake of it.

    I feel pathetic, for example, I can't stop crying. I met a friend who was sympathetic in the supermarket and felt myself welling up just telling her what I was on. FFS, I really need to stop dissolving into tears all the time. I was feeling low and my back hurt like mad but I have to stop crying all the time.

    I want a pain-free existence - this has been going on for about 4 years now.
  • 36 hours off dihydrocodeine. Down to 1.5mg of Valium. I "control" the pain now on a mixture of diclofenac (Voltarol) and paracetemol, though I am waiting until I am in pain before I take anything rather than just taking things regularly for the sake of it.

    I feel pathetic, for example, I can't stop crying. I met a friend who was sympathetic in the supermarket and felt myself welling up just telling her what I was on. FFS, I really need to stop dissolving into tears all the time. I was feeling low and my back hurt like mad but I have to stop crying all the time.

    I want a pain-free existence - this has been going on for about 4 years now.
  • It is quite natural to break down and cry or get emotional when dealing with pain, a back issue and coming off different medications. It does get better, but it is a real by product of what you are going through and experiencing. Heck even TV commercials can trigger a good cry when a person is in this stage. I found that by going through the break down and cry phase at home, I could "deplete the stores" of emotion before venturing out in public. That way I may have been more of a limp rag, but not look so pathetic in public or in front of my friends. I think it is important to recognize that this effects us on such a level and to go with the natural flow of things. I hope that makes sense.

    Anyway, we are always here for you and we don't mind if you get emotional or cry.

  • Frances Dear,

    You enjoy your spa day! I am totally jealous!!!!

    And again, I agree with "C". It is okay to cry all the time. I am pretty good at it.

    Not crying in public, etc.:
    What stinks is sucking it up, mustering up the energy and going out in public only to have someone say something stupid like "You look good" (implies I didn't the last times) or "You must be in pain" (when I actually am fine except for staying up too late typing on here) or "I'm glad you are getting better" (What the heck?! I guess next time I won't shower or put on lipgloss before I grocery shop. Sheesh!) Normal people not in pain, just say "Nice to see you" or "How are you?" Don't tell me how I look or worse, how I feel.

    Thank you for letting me get that off my chest in your thread. Can you tell I had a bad day too?

    "D" :-D
  • Well, 20 days on and I am still off the dihydrocodeine and morphine. Only on 3ml of valium at night and trying to keep the pain at bay using paracetamol.

    My guts are completely wrecked. Before it was nothing doing, now I have to run. I have a permanent stomach ache or cramps and feel grotty. I ache alot today and I am so depressed. I could cry at the drop of a hat. I haven't even been outside as I hurt so much, including my tummy. I just want to curl up with a hotwater bottle and die somewhere quietly.

    I don't want to go on feeling like this. I want it to all stop.

    I am feeling very sorry for myself. The pain makes me miserable which makes me feel the pain more - a vicious circle.
  • Hang in there. I know you're probably tired of people telling you that, but what other choice do you have? I've been where you are back in July. Yes, it is very trying to say the least. I had to go to work everyday too and that made it even worse....co-workers asking me what was wrong and having to say nothing and pray I wouldn't lose it in front of anyone. You should be proud for how far you've come. Do you have any type of support system, someone you can talk to? Please feel free to PM me if you want to. You have made it through the worst of the withdrawal. Give yourself a few more weeks. I swear this stuff stores up in the fat cells of our bodies and doesn't want to leave without a fight. It took me a good month to start feeling like myself. Everyone is different though.
  • Are you trying to reduce the vslium as well as the other meds that you were on? I don't know how long you were on valium or the other meds, but I do know that benzodiazepeins need to be tapered and it needs to be done very, very slowly. Otherwise you can wind up having the very symptoms that you are talking about. Crying (emotional lability), sleeplessness, gastric problems. Do some reading about tapering benzo's and you will see if that is where your problems are stemming from. I would suggest going much slower , at a decreased amount of each reduction, and go a bit longer between reductions and it might help. I know, I am like you, want off things yesterday but you can't do that with some meds.
    Good luck and sorry if there are any typos but I borke my wrist and forearm so can't type too well.
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