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What would happen if I stopped taking pain meds?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Pain Medications
Maybe some of you have thought of this before. Yesterday I took my pain meds as rx-d and I was still in pain. Plus I was tired, weak, unmotivated, withdrawn, empty, alone. I thought, I'm still in pain while taking these darn meds. And reading other posts, all the trouble we go through to get these stupid pills. The dr visits, the scrutinies, the pharmacy prices, not to mention IF the pharmacy HAS ENOUGH of our medicine. The stress of waiting until I am down to my LAST DAYS- only two pills left! and going to the pharmacy not knowing if they will have my medicine. Then having to drive across town if they don't to find a pharmacy that does. The side effects.
Is all this worth the "pain relief"? What will happen to me if I quit taking these meds? Am I just being stupid or fantasizing about all this going away? Have you felt this way or thought about this?


  • Hiya

    I would talk to doc first, as even though you are not getting releif, you may still go through withdrawls, and maybe there is a diff med or combo of meds that can help you.
  • I haven't stopped, but last month I cut back quite a bit. I wanted to try Fentanyl again, but had experienced side effects the last time. My doctor had an idea to try a lower dose for a while, see if that helps.

    So I spent a month with a 12 mcg fentanyl patch as my long-acting, which didn't do much at all, and my regular b/t meds (which I have always pretty much taken regularly).

    What did I find? I found the side effects much reduced, not so sleepy and tired, etc. But I was completely laid up by pain, so it didn't matter.

    I think it was a positive experience. Not necessarily going cold turkey, but just reminding myself why I take all of these medications. When I went back up to the 25 mcg patch and the most debilitating pain, the bone-deep pain that goes from my fracture down through my hips and thighs, was significantly lessened it felt like such a weight lifted from me. It's much easier to deal with the side effects!

    That and the reminder that Fentanyl really does work better for me, even if it makes me kind of a cranky wench.

    I just don't think there's anything wrong with cutting back every now and then to reunite with your pain, remind yourself why you're taking these horrible things. I'll be doing it again in 2 weeks as I prepare for the big S. :)

    eta: Major ommission- As Eve said below, always with your doctor's OK! And I should have added that I had some withdrawals at the beginning, that had I not expected them I might have thought THAT was my pain, when it was not- it was just angry opiate receptors getting less than they were used to, my actual pain was waiting for me under there. So it's something to do with some knowledge and understanding, which your doctor can help you with :)
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    I hope this day finds you feeling above average.

    On the topic of discontinuing meds.

    There is in the "Medical Circles" whats called taking a "Drug Holiday" it is not an uncommon practice in the geriatric population in an attempt to monitor and see just how well and efficient the meds that the patient is taking are.

    With some of us, we are on so many meds for so many different reasons that it almost makes sense to try it.

    I will be heading in that direction myself - due to my loss of license to drive. I will no longer be able to see my dr. to obtain any of my class two meds (Fentynl and Percocet). I will be going on a Norco only "diet" I will at the same time try to reduce the muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety meds I take daily. This will ALL BE DONE ONLY WITH MY DOCTORS APPROVAL. I have other meds for B.P. and Thyroid I won't change but the exclusion of these two meds will reduce my RX costs significantly.

    My only problem at this point is I have seemed to developed a left sided low back butt pain since my accident. I am debating as to whether I should get some pictures taken .... I know the answer ... but am afraid to start down the path of having an L.S. issue going on in addition to my lovely neck.

    Maybe you could talk to you Doc about a "Drug Holiday" see if he/she is familar with the term and what they advise.

    Warmest Regards,

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • Dave,

    I sort of do your 'drug holiday' with my doctor's knowledge and approval. With me remember my constant is only Lyrica and Darvocet when the mechanical pain shoots up. I do it so I can gage if there is any changes with the neuropathy side of the house. What is scary is when you realize just how much said medicine *is* addressing pain issues! I do 1 day no Lyrica or any other meds once every 3 weeks or so.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Aviatrix36440 said:
    What is scary is when you realize just how much said medicine *is* addressing pain issues!
    My pain level was much higher than I expected! It was at the same time reassuring (that I'm not taking all this stuff for no reason, and that the reason I'm not getting complete pain relief is because the pain is worse, not that I'm just developing tolerance like crazy!) but also so depressing. It's just a lot of bombardment to think of my body going through all the time!

    I also did try to taper off of the Topamax, which I imagined wasn't doing much- whoo boy, I did a turnaround on that right quick too. I was able to come off all but the last 100 mg, and then it was just noooo way.

    Just thinking back to the days of tramadol and tylenol, it wasn't that long ago! Man, things sure did turn around! Thank goodness for fentanyl patches and norco and trustworthy surgeons!
  • HB,

    Before I was put on Lyrica, I was on Percocet 5/325? Sorry, can't remember how that dose was, but that and Darvocet. All that crap did was make me a zombie, and I still hurt so bad I couldn't function. After I *again* described what I was feeling to my NS, he then put me on Lyrica. Once it built up in my system, it was like someone hit a switch. Thanks to Lyrica addressing my true constant issues, my narcotics are way, way down.

    Tomorrow I will see how me and Lidoderm patches get along. What will be (er should be) great is if they do as I hope they do, Mr. Darvocet and his friends might be barely used! :) Whooohoo! My NS wasn't major concerned with my skip a day every few weeks since I'm on the Lyrica for nerve pain vs seizure control.

    I know presently, without the Lyrica, I would be staying this > < close to ER visits! Yuck! "Long live Lyrica, long live Lyrica!!" :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Curious. Have you tried any nerve pain medications? I just looked at your signature and didn't see any. I know my NS's first shot for pain management on me was the Darvocet and Percocets, but later went to nerve meds. Just a thought. If it were to turn out you had more nerve pain, then maybe some of the narcotics or opiates can be cut down?

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Yep, nerve pain meds are a must have! Even if you have a mix of different types of pain, it's good to mix up the different types of meds too.

    Brenda, I can't do Lyrica anymore, but the Topamax helps with both the surface pain and the tingling, burning sensations. Unfortunately I can only take so much due to side effects, and there's a lot of breakthrough pain, and there is a lot of pain it doesn't even address. So I'm stuck. Luckily right now I'm not feeling very zombie-ish, so it's all good.
  • I was weighed today (normal with my GP), and I've officially lost 20 of the 45lbs Lyrica gave me! :) That much weight was a biggie on the side affects for me, but worth it! Sorry to hear you can't use it. What you have now though HB, it is at least knocking the edge off? Hoping so!!

    I so agree on nerve pain meds being in the mix. I'm actually kind of surprised they aren't given straight off with known spine patients. I wonder, if they did that, would there be less narcotic (need) use in many? Hummm.... I could care less about Lyrica when I first heard of it, reluctantly I tried it, wow! At least for now, my 'mix' seems to be real good. As you know, I don't do PM's, all my scripts are with my GP now.

    When other doctors do things (medication changes, procedures) I give her copies, or a narrative on what was done. This way she sees the 'whole me'. Too many doctors don't talk to other doctors (for the same patient) and wires get crossed - trying to cut that aspect down. That might be another reason my meds have not gone all over the place. Whew!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • When you go through withdrawal, you will probably have more pain because you generally get achy while going through w/d. That means that it would probably be difficult to assess your true pain levels until you were on no medication for some time.

    I understand not wanting to take medication. It really is such a hassle in so many different ways. You could always ask your doctor to put you on a medication holiday and see what s/he says. Do you think that your doctor would understand your reasoning for this? I think that it's hard to bring things like this up to some doctors though.
  • I am so frustrated with inadequate pain control. I feel like no amount of pain medication will make me feel better, and I'm taking a lot of it. I'm considering a 3-week program at the M... Clinic which claims that they will get you off of all medication and increase both your physical and emotional function. They have maintained data that indicates that 6 months after the program, participants feel less pain with NO narcotics than they did upon entering the program and they are comparable to patients who never had surgery. They also suggest that people feel less depressed, more vital, happier, etc.

    Please see the following paper entitled "Commentary: the paradox of analgesic medication elimination":


    I'm not sure I can take 3 weeks off from work, so I may do it the poor man's way with my Wii exercises, PT, hot tub, and a lot of withdrawal aches and pains (and Nausea, vomitting, etc.)

    Sorry if this is disturbing, but I've pretty much had it.
  • My NS wants me to try to get off the Narco and control my pain with oc drugs. I take 7.5 at 8am, 12pm, 3pm, and 9pm for the past year and a half. Sometimes I think it makes the pain worse, maybe its just in my head but who knows.This will be my third attempt to get off the vics. I dont have the type of nerve pain that others have here but do have severe constant toothache like pain in lower back and buttocks, and right leg than never lets up. I wake up with it and go to be with it, thats just life. Doc says that most pain is 70% mental, I asked him if he experienced the type of pain that we go through and he said "no", I said than how could you possible know what Im feeling? He said we must try to get off the vics to see if we can control it with a med thats less adictive and does less harm on the body. He said if I modify my life, use the tens, physical therapy, heating pad and oc's we should be able to do it. I will have bad days but you'll have to learn to deal with them and if their really bad there is always the ER.

    I start with taking 1/2 the 9:00 dose for 3 days then stop taking the other 1/2 for 3 days, so on and so on till im completely off(taking out about 1 pill a week). Im scared for I hate the withdrawls but have to do it for me. Everytime I get my script filled and I see that huge bottle of vics (180) it scares me that Im putting that many pills in my body!

    1 180 bottle-45 days

    8.11 bottles a year

    1,460 pills each year

    2234 pills to date

  • After a crazy year of increasing pain and increasing meds then changing meds I am going to talk to my doctor about stopping everything for a short time. I'd like to see if less invasive treatments like a tens unit and the lidoderm patches can keep the pain managable without the nasty side effects that seem to come with everything else. Since this is a life long condition it seems logical that less is better for your overall health.
  • Newhouse, look up long term effects on the body of opiates vs. OTC meds. such as tylenol and ibuprofen. I have chronic gastritis due partially from chronic NSAID use. Tylenol is known to negatively affect the liver in large long-term doses.

    And your doctor is partially right about pain being in our heads. He obviously listened to half a lecture about pain psychology. He just didn't listen to the part about the PERCEPTION of pain being in our heads, which is why we can sometimes change how we feel that pain. But he missed the part where *perception* requires (usually) a stimulus (perception without a stimulus is often a pathological state). The stimulus is not in your head, it's in your back. That kind of ruins his theory.

    That comment combined with the "get on something with less long term effect on the body" would probably have me running. You should research these issues on your own and see what you think :)

  • I hear what your saying. Right now I'm getting 30 mg of vicodin and 1300 mg of tylenol a day. If I could just get away with maybe taking tylenol 8hr. 1300mg a day is the lesser of 2 evils. Plus on good days I might be able to get away with just using the tens unit and the heating pad, I cant do that while I'm on the vicodin. I hate being dependent on this drug and there will be a time that it will not work as well and have to increase the dose again, again, and again. It's time to see if I really need it anymore. If I cant take the pain doc says he'll put me on something else or put me back on the vicodin.I'm scared and excited at the same time. Scared of the possibility of not being able to control the pain when its at its worse, and excited that I will not be dependent on this drug. Wish me luck!!
  • I just wonder what the decision that the tylenol is the lesser of two evils is based on.

    Certainly if you can do with 1300 mg of tylenol a day, that's not very much. You could avoid doctor's appointments, the risk of addiction, etc.

    But the maximum daily dose of tylenol is 4 gm, or 4 doses of extra strength tylenol (many people do not know this). At that dose, you should not use alcoholic beverages at all, and you should carefully research the risks of liver damage if you were to use anything close to that dose long term. (this information is all readily available online)

    So just be careful if you choose to use tylenol not to continually creep up your dosage above a safe daily dosage.

  • I went 9 hrs without anything in my system. Became agitated and pain climbing. I am afraid of going in to the dr and asking about this. He seemed irritated with me last time I saw him went I went in after starting an antidepressant with worsening depresion and pain. I'm wondering how much opiate I am getting in my system with a 15 mg oxycon every 12 hours. I've been on 5mg opiates for almost 3 yrs. I think I have built a tolerance but do not want to go up in meds becz I know getting off them will be harder. He put up his wall and said "tough it out" just like the PM dr. SO I have an appt with a spine dr for a consult to see if I fit the mold for a steroid inj. I've had one before and it did help. I went off course for 2 yrs at the PM dr, trying nerve blocks and then finally the ablation which left me in worse condition. I have not tried nerve meds. I am DXd with facet jt syndrome and the PM dxd me with cervical spondylosis which I think he was grasping at straws (I have no bone spurs) I think I am just a weirdo one of a kind peculiar person that doesn't fit the mold of 'normal'.Thanks for all your input & support spiney friends.
  • If you do ask your doctor about taking you off of pain medication, please ask him if he will prescribe it to you if you decide that the pain is unbearable without medication.
  • You are not a weirdo, non of us fall in the norm when it comes to the docs. Tuff it out is their answer to everything. Find a doc that will listen and work with you to meet your needs. Lots of Hugs!!!!

    happyHmom- Whether its tylenol, motrin, opiates or alcohol, everything has its risks, its up to us what were willing to risk to take the pain away. Thanks for all the info, it gave me a lot to think about.-kathy
  • That is a normal withdrawal reaction. It will take a while for the oxy to leave your system and for your system to start reacting.

    I didn't quite understand the most recent post about not being normal? What part do you think isn't normal?
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