Quitting Painkillers Cold Turkey – What Happens?

Prescription painkillers have helped countless individuals manage their physical pain in ways that promote better lives for themselves. But while those who consume prescription painkillers appropriately can benefit from the use of them, those who do not take them as prescribed but instead abuse them typically do not benefit. In fact, they usually develop serious mental, physical, and emotional problems related to the abuse of these drugs, along with tolerance, dependence, and eventually addiction. Despite the dangers that prescription painkillers possess, however, people still find themselves hooked on them and experience significant difficulty quitting painkillers cold turkey.

Today, approximately 3.3 million Americans abuse prescription painkillers including oxycodone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, morphine, and codeine. The amount of people abusing prescription painkillers (and illicit opioids like heroin) has thrown the United States into a severe opioid epidemic. From 1999 to 2019, more than 450,000 people have died from a drug overdose involving prescription and/or illicit opioids. 

Prescription painkillers are usually opioid based. Therefore, they are habit-forming. Some prescription painkillers are so potent that a person can misuse them for just a few days and find themselves quickly addicted to them. Once an addiction to prescription painkillers forms, trying to stop using can be extremely challenging and feel impossible at times. One reason for this difficulty is that when ending prescription painkiller abuse, a period of withdrawal can begin, which is typically painful and distressing. The only way to make the pain of withdrawal dissipate is to push through the pain until the body is cleared of all prescription painkillers or go back and use again. Unfortunately, most people find difficulty in sustaining the period of withdrawal and use again instead. This is a cycle that often repeats itself, tending to end in either overdose or a reach for help. And, the situation can grow much worse when a person who is addicted to prescription painkillers tries to quit cold turkey.

What Happens When Quitting Painkillers Cold Turkey?

Stopping a drug “cold turkey” means that a person has, with no warning or weaning, ended their active substance abuse. The “cold turkey” term refers to the goosebumps, sweats, and chills that a person experiences after abruptly stopping painkiller use. But one’s skin turning bumpy and clammy is often the most mild of all symptoms that can develop when prescription painkiller abuse ends immediately. 

When a person is quitting painkillers cold turkey, they might think that they are doing themselves and those around them a favor, that is, until the withdrawal symptoms hit. And these symptoms can be extremely troublesome. Consider the following: 

  • Feeling ill – For those who are dependent on painkillers, chances are that shortly after they stop using they are going to start feeling really ill. So ill, in fact, that many people compare this feeling to that of having a severe case of the flu. Sweats, chills, headaches, body aches, stomach pains, nausea, and diarrhea can develop rather quickly after one’s last use. They can sustain themselves for a few days prior to eventually fading, but the consistency and intensity of these symptoms can make it easy for someone to go back to using painkillers just to obtain some relief.
  • Becoming distraught — Abruptly quitting painkillers cold turkey often leaves people feeling highly distraught. They can become extremely irritable and even aggressive, as well as start developing feelings of anxiety and depression. For some, quitting painkillers cold turkey can even cause suicidal thoughts to develop, which can lead to suicidal behaviors and/or attempts. These emotions can fluctuate rapidly within the first few days of a person’s painkiller withdrawal, again with using being the fastest, easiest way to make them stop.
  • Having no support — Impulsivity is a common trait among people with substance use disorders. The decision to just quit painkillers cold turkey can be an act of impulsivity, in which case a person is leaving themselves with little to no support. If someone wants to get sober, especially from painkillers, having the right people and supports in place is absolutely vital to success. A person is not going to just stop using painkillers while still living on the streets or with others who continue to use without relapsing quickly themselves. Even if they attempt to detox alone, not having the encouragement from others and the medical/psychological care needed during this vulnerable time makes it more likely that a person will go right back to using painkillers to cope. 
  • Increasing risk of overdose — For people who have been abusing painkillers for a long time and/or in high doses, quitting painkillers cold turkey puts them at increased risk for overdose if they do decide to use again. What happens is that over the first day or days of their cessation of use, the body is working on clearing painkillers from its system. If that person decides that they can no longer sustain the withdrawal process and wants to use again, they are likely to use the same amount of painkillers as they normally would. This can cause overdose and even become fatal, as has been working on resetting itself in the wake of quitting painkillers cold turkey.

Quitting painkillers cold turkey is never a good idea. Of course, being at a place in your life where you want to stop abusing painkillers is great, but doing it on your own and without the help of professionals can get extremely dangerous extremely fast. That is why it is imperative to seek professional treatment services when you want to put an end to your active addiction.

Drug Rehab in California 

If you are struggling with a painkiller addiction, reach out to us right now. We understand how challenging living with active addiction is. We also know that the help we can provide you can show you a new way of living that is free from the confines of addiction and filled with happiness and freedom. 

Do not wait any longer. Reach out to us right now to learn more about how we can help you.

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