We know that many people who end up addicted to opioids, whether painkillers or other drugs like heroin, start off with a legitimate need for prescription pain relief. It’s become increasingly clear in recent years that whenever possible, opioids shouldn’t be used to treat chronic pain. Doctors are facing restrictions about how many opioid prescriptions they can write, and states are setting up databases of patients’ drug history in an attempt to prevent doctor shopping, or getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors. All of these things are effective tools in combating the opioid crisis, but an unfortunate side effect is that they leave one group out in the cold. Whether it’s recommended or not, there are some people who have either been taking opioids for many years and, while not suffering from substance abuse, still don’t want to experience the unpleasant side effects of stopping. They either carry on despite the risks or try to slowly wean themselves off of the drugs.
If you’ve taken opioid medications for more than two weeks, it’s not recommended that you try stopping cold turkey. There are a variety of unpleasant and even dangerous side effects related to opioid withdrawal, including:
- Restlessness or anxiety
- Increased pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Sweating or fevers
- Rapid heart rate
- Blood pressure changes
It can take weeks or even months to safely taper off opioid use, depending on the particular drug and the dose.
That’s why in Washington State, doctors and patients alike are alarmed by a proposed regulation that will force patients to stop using opioids quicker. Many doctors – not just in Washington – are at risk of losing their licenses if they prescribe too many opioids. It’s easy enough to not prescribe them to new patients, but for doctors who have been treating people for chronic pain for years, it might mean that those people have to cut back on the amount they can use. Many people who are taking the maximum allowed dose already barely manage to get by. For people with severe pain, taking these medications doesn’t get rid of the pain altogether, it just makes it possible to carry on with their lives. One less pill per day might mean that someone can’t work any longer, or will even prevent them from getting out of bed some days.
The regulations in Washington are still being considered, but it’s a problem all over the country. People who need these medications to function are being punished – if unintentionally – for the actions of others. For the people already suffering from chronic pain, there might not be much they can do about it. In the future, doctors will have to consider other alternatives so that we don’t end up with another generation of people in this predicament.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.