Medication Withdrawal

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So, after years of taking medication from chronic pain, and after having nerve ablations on the spine, numerous lidocaine and cortisone injections, etc - I have gradually cut down my medication dose, and a month ago, I started weaning off of it. I'm in day 2 after my last dose, and the symptoms came on strong last night. My last few days, I was cutting 2 mg hydromorphone into 4 1/2 mg doses, for each day. Supposedly, tapering makes it easier. Over the years, I successfully tapered down my dose on my own, with the help of clonidine. Never really had much in the way of symptoms, I'd feel a bit restless for a day or 2, and that was it. Thought it'd be the same stopping my meds, but it is anything but. The bad news is that treating the symptoms is challenging, it will take 72 hours before I get relief.

The good news is that I am in day 2, which is supposedly the worst. Even cutting back, I found it took around 3 days for my body to adjust to the lower dose, and day 2 was always the worst. I should start feeling better Sunday. Even though I am using clonidine, sertraline, and OTC loperamide and naproxen sodium to ease the symptoms, I'm miserable. Didn't sleep much last night, that's when everything kicked in. The worst is the anxiety and restless legs feeling, I used a lot of topical pain sprays. The upside is that I have found alternatives that work well that I don't need the hydromorphone anymore. Taking turmeric and using Lidocaine 5% ointment help. Wish me luck getting through this.

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Hot showers help me with anxiety. And walking, but that sounds like maybe not an option with the pain.

I'm actually starting to feel a bit better. Got over much of the hurdle for day 2. I have no appetite, so I had a soft boiled egg with some Ecce Panis multigrain bread from the store bakery. I've been pushing fluids, they say that's good.

kamalktk, I did read about the hot shower, might try that before bed. Also read that chamomile tea can help, I have used it for sleep at times, so will have that at bedtime too. Walking isn't really an option, due to being mobility impaired, but an idea came to me. I decided to try my lidocaine ointment for the restless legs, I think it is helping.

I keep repeating the mantra of The Little Engine That Could, "I think I can, I think I can", funny that a childhood book comes to mind.

Keep it going, SC! Just think of the positive results, how people will love the new you. I have been involved with helping people who are dependent on painkillers. They are difficult to live with as they go from cycles of lucidity to agony to lethargic. What a blessing it will be for you and your loved ones if you keep going!!!!

A friend who quit drinking complained of weird dreams and an inability to get to sleep because of a "stream of consciousness" kind of thing. "I don't want to say 'voices in my head,' but I don't know what else you call it." Just curious if you have anything like that. Hmm, this question might sound insensitive, not trying to be!

Thanks, everyone, for the green and well wishes.

2coatsofpaint, that's why I've cut back over time. I was on much, much stronger stuff years ago. Lidocaine 5% patches were a huge help, allowed me to significantly lower my dose. I felt zonked on the higher dose, rarely lucid, fortunately no agony. Lidocaine is the best stuff. My pain management doc said the goal was to get me to the point that I no longer needed them. He did get me to that point, before he left the practice. I got tired of the monthly trips, long waits in the office (because they were always behind schedule). Decided it was time to taper off.

Kandykornhead, nothing like that. I have been having problems sleeping due to restless legs and anxiety, but that's it.

The night after I posted this thread, I slept like a baby, after drinking the chamomile tea. Yesterday, the stomach problems started, which I treated with loperamide (Immodium). Last night, the restlessness returned, then I was awakened this morning by a massive panic attack (though I wasn't fully sure if that's what it was). I was shaking violently, heart racing, chest pain, arms feeling numb and tingly, feeling flushed - I called 911, went to the hospital, told them I was home detoxing, explained that I had been slow tapering over the past 6 weeks. Came home with medicine for the panic attacks (Yup, that's what it was, still having them), plus medicine for sleep. Apparently, narcotics can boost serotonin, when you stop them, your serotonin levels go south, which is why you have anxiety. So, I'm needing SSRI's to get me over. Nothing like spending 4 hours in the ER feeling like your dying. If you've ever had a panic attack, you know the feeling. I was in full tachycardia when I arrived, 120 beats per minute, and my blood pressure was elevated. Still having them, even though I took the SSRI, might need a much stronger dose. Following up with my primary care doc ASAP.

I'm determined to get through this, but I can appreciate why some people either relapse or turn to illicit drugs.

Instead of "I think I can". I'm saying, "I know I can". This, too, shall pass.

SweetClover said:    I was awakened this morning by a massive panic attack (though I wasn't fully sure if that's what it was). I was shaking violently, heart racing, chest pain, arms feeling numb and tingly, feeling flushed - I called 911, . Nothing like spending 4 hours in the ER feeling like your dying.

Yup, that's a panic attack, I've been to the hospital for them too so you have company and someone to PM about them if needed. I woke up with one in the middle of the night once, that was the worst.

It doesn't help at all that one of the symptoms of a panic attack can be feeling like you are dying and the rest of the symptoms are quite similar to a heart attack. Realizing it's a panic attack and not a heart attack and you're not dying helps, but it's very tough in the middle of one to do that because your mind isn't rational then. My panic attack meds take about 30 minutes or so before most of their effect kicks in.

I hope that you're feeling better, SC. Panic attacks are the absolute worst. I experienced multiple panic attacks per day in college and have the medical bills to prove it !! . At one point I was prescribed both Xanax and Adderall after trying every antidepressant/mood stabilizer under the sun. I finally came to the conclusion that I didn't want to be on any medication and started practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and have been panic attack free for almost two years.  

I'm not a doctor but I agree with all of the tips and advice listed above. Some other things that have worked to calm my anxiety:

  • Light exercise -- even if it's just a walk around the block or dancing around to a song you like
  • My favorite music played very loudly (some people prefer it quiet though)
  • Sipping very cold water
  • Calling a friend or my mom on the phone
  • Cuddling w/ my fur babies
  • Getting engrossed in a book or tv show
  • A super-luxurious bath
  • Changing into my favorite comfy clothes
  • Eating something sour

Try anything that will stimulate your senses and potentially distract you, even if just for a moment. It can help "ground" you / bring you back to earth. You got this.  

SweetClover said:   ... Taking turmeric and using Lidocaine 5% ointment help. Wish me luck getting through this.
You may already know but black pepper increases the bio-availability of turmeric a lot, I have been taking it for some chronic inflammation related pain I have in my right leg and it has helped a lot. I no longer need to take my Dr.'s script of 3 massive ibuprofen pills a day. Also I've cut a lot of sugar out of my diet and my mood is much more stable which has helped with my anxiety.

Hope any of that helps and good luck!!!!


Keep a diary Handy.
Soon after the panic attack, write down how you felt during the panic attack - how you thought you were going to die, how your fingers were numb, heart was racing, BP went high. And how you felt after it subsided.
Then when you have the next one, refer to the diary if you can. Reading it again helps mind realize that it is going to be ok.
Good luck - keep up the fight.

Well, I haven't had any panic attacks since the ER visit, just a lot of anxiety, and restless legs - restless legs disrupted my sleep Friday night, anxiety interfered Saturday night, in spite of taking Ambien. But today, day 11, I am having no restless legs, and anxiety is minimal, so things are winding down. Which is a good thing, since I have no Ambien left. I have two Zoloft left from the ER, may not even need to take them. ER doc gave me what he thought would get me by, and said my PCP could prescribe more if needed. Only med now is the clonidine patch, which is doing a pretty good job of keeping WD's at bay by itself, it's the gold standard for detoxing.

I've listened to music, watched TV, snuggled with kitty, called my mom on the phone every few days, and kept thinking positive thoughts. By day 14, I will be in the clear.

TheRedBaaron, I take my Turmeric with my evening meal, so it gets consumed with both black pepper and fat. If you mix it with fat, that also improves bio-availability. All I know, is it works very well for osteoarthritis and inflammation. And unlike prescription NSAID'S, it isn't potentially dangerous for your stomach or heart. It's actually a natural COX-2 inhibitor. Has anti-cancer properties too.

ZenNUTS, thanks for the <HUGS>.

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