Accidental Prescription Withdrawals – Side-Effects of Pain Medication Withdrawal

Withdrawing from Pain Medication.

It should be made clear that absolutely no one decides to become addicted to prescription painkillers. No one swallows their first OxyContin and thinks about how they’re now going to alienate their loved ones, lose their job, or become involved on the wrong side of law enforcement. However, while the abuse of Illegal Street drugs is on the decline in the United States, the abuse of prescription painkillers in on the rise.

Like all commonly abused drugs, opiate narcotics – prescription painkillers – are known to stimulate areas of the brain that are associated with pleasurable feelings. Usage of opiate painkillers creates, alongside analgesia, feelings of happiness and the sensation that all is right with the world. These feelings are similarly stimulated by eating food, drinking water, caring for children, and having sex, all activities necessary for sustaining life. As such, these activities, like prescription painkillers, stimulate the reward system of the brain and release a flood of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

Many individuals who abuse prescription painkillers such as Vicodin or OxyContin believe that as the medication was prescribed by a physician, these drugs are safe. This could not be farther from the truth. At the dosage and frequency prescribed, prescription painkillers are fairly safe. However, if these drugs are used in a manner not intended by a physician or by someone who the drug is not prescribed for, prescription painkillers can be as dangerous as street drugs.

Often, people who begin to abuse prescription painkillers mix them with other substances to increase the desired high. Some combine prescription painkillers with other downers such as alcohol or benzodiazepines to increase the pleasurable and carefree feelings. The combination of these drugs can cause respiratory depression, which can lead to respiratory arrest and death. Others combine prescription painkillers with stimulants such as cocaine and meth in order to reduce the more unpleasant side effects of stimulant abuse. The combination of uppers and downers can lead to cardiovascular collapse and death.


Prescription painkiller abuse is on the rise in the United States. In 2007, 2.5 million people in the United States tried abusing prescription painkillers for the first time. That same year, 2.1 million used marijuana for the first time. In 2007, the non-medical use of prescription painkillers rose to 12%, with one in every ten high school students admitting to using prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes. Frighteningly, individuals in the US who abuse prescription painkillers are 19 times more likely than others in the same age bracket to begin abusing heroin.

Co-Occurring Disorders.

Many people who develop an addiction to prescription painkillers are also struggling with co-occurring mental illnesses. These co-occurring disorders may include the following:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Other drug abuse.
  • Alcoholism.

Causes of Pain Medication Abuse.

No one walks into the doctor presenting with pain issues with the express intent to become an addict – in fact, most people who go to the doctor for pain issues are aiming to do one thing: reduce the pain they’re experiencing. Even if an individual is experimenting with the feelings associated with prescription painkillers, he or she rarely has the intention of reaching full-blown addiction.

There has not been one single identifiable cause for the development of addiction in an individual. It’s generally believed that individuals develop an addiction based upon a number of factors. Common causes of prescription painkiller abuse may include the following:

Genetic: It’s been long understood that addiction has a genetic component. Individuals who have first-degree relatives who struggle with addiction are more prone to develop an addiction later in life.

Brain Chemistry: As prescription painkillers stimulate the rewards system of the brain by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, it’s been postulated that some individuals have inborn deficiencies in dopamine levels. These individuals may use food, drugs, or prescription painkillers in order to correct these inborn deficiencies.

Environmental: Individuals who are born into chaotic home environments in which drug use is prevalent are more likely to develop an addiction later in life. Additionally, those who begin to abuse drugs at a younger age are more likely to develop an addiction to serious drugs later in life.

Psychological: Prescription painkillers work to reduce pain and boost feelings of happiness. Individuals who are experiencing low moods from an untreated or undiagnosed co-occurring mental disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, are at greater risk for developing a dependence upon prescription painkillers.

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Pain Medication withdrawal.

More than 12 million people in the United States reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical use in 2010. If you stop using Pain Medication after becoming dependent, you’ll likely experience extremely uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. In fact, many people continue abusing drugs to avoid the difficult symptoms that come with detoxification.

Though Pain Medication withdrawal is not normally life threatening, the process can lead to symptoms that are difficult to manage. Some effects of withdrawal can even cause serious health complications. The severity of your withdrawal symptoms may also depend on your level of dependence.

Going through withdrawal is challenging. But breaking your dependence is a vital first step in living a healthier life.

Symptoms of Pain Medication Abuse.

The symptoms of Pain Medication abuse will vary among individuals based upon genetic makeup, length of the addiction, and frequency of abuse. There are some common symptoms that are seen in most who abuse prescription painkillers. These include:

Mood symptoms:

  • Mood swings.
  • Euphoria.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lying.
  • Social isolation.
  • Stealing to obtain more painkillers.
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain additional prescriptions.

Physical symptoms:

  • Constipation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Sedation.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Itchy, flushed skin.
  • Increased risks for heart attack and other cardiovascular complications.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Tolerance.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Psychological symptoms:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Worsening mood states.
  • Psychosis.

At-home help.

When you’re dependent on Pain Medication, your body is used to having them in your system. Your body might also build up a tolerance to many of the drug’s side effects, like skin dryness and constipation. Suddenly cutting yourself off from Pain Medication may cause a strong reaction.

If you try to go through withdrawal on your own, you’ll need to be prepared. Try to slowly taper off opiates before you go off them completely. This might limit the intensity of your withdrawal. However, given the compulsive nature of addiction, most people find self-regulated tapering to be impossible. It often leads to a full relapse into addiction.

Dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea is common and could lead to serious health complications. Many people end up in the hospital with dehydration when they’re going through withdrawal. Drinking plenty of hydrating fluids during withdrawal is very important. Electrolyte solutions, such as Pedialyte, may help keep you hydrated.

Over-the-counter help.

Using the correct doses of over-the-counter medications can help. Consider loperamide (Imodium) for diarrhea. If you’re experiencing nausea, you might try medications like meclizine (Antivert or Bonine) or dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). You can also try antihistamines like Benadryl. Aches and pains that seem to crop up everywhere can be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). Never use any medication for longer than its recommended usage or in larger doses than recommended.

Preparation can be essential. Withdrawal symptoms can last from days to weeks. If you have a couple weeks’ worth of medications, you can avoid the need to go out for more. But be careful not to use these medications in amounts greater than the recommended dose. If the regular dose isn’t helping, make sure to discuss the issue with your doctor.

Alternative support.

Though there isn’t much evidence regarding the use of vitamins and supplements in treating the effects of Pain Medication withdrawal, some studies investigated complementary medicine, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

In the case of acupuncture, several studies demonstrated reduced withdrawal symptoms when combined with certain medicines. The report of studies on Chinese herbal medications found that the herbs were actually more effective at managing withdrawal symptoms than clonidine was.

Examples of Chinese herbal medications used to treat opiate addiction include:

  • Tai-Kang-Ning, which is thought to be effective for moderate to severe heroin withdrawal
  • ginseng
  • U’finer, which is a Chinese herbal blend thought to repair the damage opiates may do to the brain


Stay comfortable and safe.

People who have gone through withdrawal recommend trying to stay as comfortable as possible. Keep your mind occupied with movies, books, or other distractions. Make sure you have soft blankets, a fan, and extra sheets. You may need to change your bedding due to excessive sweating.

Make sure a friend or family member knows that you plan on attempting the withdrawal process. Beyond support, you’ll need someone to check on you. Be cautious of recipes and anecdotal stories described in online forums. None of them have gone through rigorous testing for safety or efficacy.

It’s important to keep your mind occupied and engaged. Try to do things you enjoy to increase your body’s endorphins. This can improve your chances for long-term success.

Treat yourself to some chocolate. Get outdoors and exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block. Whether you’re in a treatment program or battling withdrawal on your own, be positive and believe that you can overcome your dependence on opiates.

Finding support.

It can be dangerous to go through withdrawal alone. Seek help from your doctor or other medical professionals. They can even prescribe you medications to help ease the symptoms you may experience and make the withdrawal period easier to manage.

Detox facilities can monitor your health and make the process safe and more effective. A care facility can provide a personalized treatment plan. Medical professionals provide important monitoring and can treat you if you have extreme side effects or if you experience dangerous complications. A facility will also work to ensure that your recovery lasts.

A detox facility can provide medications to help ease the withdrawal process. You may find that medications like clonidine can diminish some of your symptoms. Librium is sometimes used to diminish significant agitation. Chloral hydrate or trazadone might be used to help you sleep. If you go through withdrawal without medical supervision, you won’t have access to these valuable resources.

Food and drink may seem repulsive during severe withdrawal. This can lead to dehydration and other complications. You should call your doctor if you are vomiting or unable to eat. It may be impossible for you to go through withdrawal at home.

Finding support groups like Narcotics Anonymous can help you to get and stay sober. Many people who were once addicted to opiates struggle to not start abusing them again in the future. These groups can help prevent that.

When to call a doctor.

Pain Medication withdrawal can be a frustrating process with symptoms that, while typically not life threatening, are difficult to manage. Your doctor can help you to manage the symptoms you may experience with personalized recommendations and prescription medications to ease the process. They can also run tests like blood work to evaluate any damage to your system caused by the opiates.

Medications that can be used to treat opiate withdrawal include:

  • methadone, which helps to relieve withdrawal symptoms and makes the detoxification period easier
  • buprenorphine, which can shorten the time of the detox period and lessen withdrawal symptoms
  • clonidine, which can treat symptoms like anxiety, agitation, and muscle aches

If you are worried about your symptoms, or know that you won’t be able to make it through withdrawal alone, consult your doctor or find a rehab facility for help.

If you experience nausea or vomiting, you may become dehydrated. It’s important to seek medical treatment. Dehydration can be a serious problem leading to abnormal heartbeats, which in rare cases can lead to circulatory and heart problems.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Extreme thirst.
  • Very dry mouth.
  • Little or no urination.
  • Fever.
  • Irritability or disorientation.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Sunken eyes.

You should not try do go through an opiate withdrawal at home if you have a preexisting heart condition or diabetes.

Pain medication withdrawals can be very dangerous and by attending a California inpatient center, you get round-the-clock care and quality help for overcoming your addiction.