How to Detox Off of Pain Pills


Things You'll Need

  • Physician
  • Addiction specialist
  • Residential detox center if desired
Pain killers are highly addictive.
Pain killers are highly addictive. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Addiction to painkillers can affect anyone. A study reported in the November 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that out of nearly 28,000 patients addicted to the powerful painkiller OxyContin, about 22 percent originally were given a prescription for the medication to treat pain. An estimated 86 percent reported using the drug to get high. Prescription drug abuse kills more than 20,000 Americans each year, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If you abuse pain medication and are ready to kick the habit, there are steps to take to help you detox as safely as possible.

How to Safely Detox from Narcotic Pain Medication

Step 1

Write down everything. List every medication you take—even those you do not abuse. Record how often you take them. This information will give your treatment team an idea about when your withdrawal symptoms will begin, how long they will last and what kind of side effects to expect.

Write down all of your medications.
Write down all of your medications. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Step 2

Discuss your choices. Once you’re committed to kicking this dangerous habit for good, make an appointment with your physician so that you can get all the information you’ll need to safely detoxify from pain medications. Your doctor can help you find a program appropriate for your needs and guide you through health insurance procedures.

Call your doctor to start the recovery process.
Call your doctor to start the recovery process. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Step 3

Choose a detox method. Your choice on whether to detox in a residential facility or at home depends largely on how long you’ve been taking pain medication and how much you take. If your doctor feels that it is safe to detox at home, you’ll still want someone to be there for you if the worst-case scenario takes place. Some dangerous withdrawal symptoms to be aware of are seizures, an irregular heartbeat, severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

A modern treatment facility.
A modern treatment facility. (Image: craftvision/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 4

Record all of your withdrawal symptoms. It’s important for your addiction specialist to know exactly what you’re going through. There are many medications your doctor can prescribe to ease your symptoms. Benzodiazepines are often used for drug-replacement therapy in which one medication is used to minimize the effects of withdrawing from another. An anti-depressant will help regulate your moods. Achiness is also a common symptom of narcotic withdrawal. There are non-narcotic, prescription pain medications, like Ultram, that your doctor can give you to help manage your pain.

Tell your doctor about all of your withdrawal symptoms.
Tell your doctor about all of your withdrawal symptoms. (Image: Alexander Raths/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 5

Find a pain management specialist. There’s a reason you started using painkillers in the first place. Whether you had an injury, nerve damage or back problems, you started taking meds for a legitimate reason. Now you need to learn how to manage your pain without taking drugs that are addictive.

Physical therapists are trained in recovery and pain reduction.
Physical therapists are trained in recovery and pain reduction. (Image: wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images)

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Tips & Warnings

  • Joining an addiction support group will keep you connected with people who are going through, or have gone through, the same experience.
  • Withholding information from your treatment team can make detox more difficult for you. It is important to tell them how you feel--emotionally and physically.
  • If you detox at home, be sure to have a friend or family member stay with you in case you have any dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
  • Even if you do not have a problem with alcohol, it is best to refrain from drinking. Alcohol is a drug that can lower your defenses and make you feel like taking more drugs.


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