Jun 27, 2012
"It is interesting the various ways that people get rid of an addiction. You should remember that most people can't shake it, and that's why they have trouble. If it was easy to get off pills there wouldn't be expensive clinics (that for a lot of money basically lock you up for a week or two), there would not be criminals who entered into a life of crime to feed an addiction, and there wouldn't be the "Hollywood star confession" of a "pain killer addiction" every other week (by the time they confess to the media they have tried to shake things many, many times).
The "taper off" method of shaking an addiction is quite simple, in concept anyway. You take fewer pills each day, to where eventually your body no longer needs the pills. It is getting addicted in reverse. We all started our addiction with one pill, then two, then three, and eventually for some, taking 20 to 30 pills a day.
I am an addict, but a personal one as no one thinks I am. But, and this is a big but, I have always recognized how addictions can develop into a heavy habit, to where one needs more and more pills. So while this may not look to some as an "achievement" I have paced and limited myself to 8 pills a day. Yes, an addiction, but I never got to the level of taking or "needing" more than two pills every six hours, nor let myself take more than that.
Anyway, I decided about three prescriptions (100 Vicodin X 3) ago that I was going to quit. I had read about the "taper off" method and doctors swear by it. It makes sense to me so that's what I am doing.
The "taper off" method is simple, and IMO (I am NOT a doctor and I am NOT an expert) you need:
- At least two months supply of pills. (This is very subjective, since that can mean anything from 6 pills daily to 20++. The bigger your addiction the more pills you are going to need to taper off.) Note however, IMO you would be very surprised that if you took only two pills every six hours instead of four or six, that your body will quickly adjust and your mind will deem that sufficient. I know this sounds stupid, but if I take one pill every four to six hours my addiction is satisfied. But yes, it is easy to take two to three pills at a pop and the body/mind will adjust to that just fine.
- A LOT OF DISCIPLINE, if you taper off on your own, without anyone's help.
- A dedicated alarm clock next to the pills. (Something like a Big Ben).
- A daily pill minder/dispenser so you can place in each day/compartment the number of pills you are allowed each day.
- A really good friend or significant other who will help you taper off, if you can't do this on your own.
- An Ambien per night so you can sleep as long as possible, to not lay awake dealing with withdrawal symptoms.
- And this is probably silly, but I find what helps are two things to control the mind, 1) I know the withdrawal symptoms will be over in about 5 days; in a lifetime of Christmases, good times, and happy days, 5 days is nothing; 2) I try to think of other people who have bigger problems than my addiction and who would gladly trade places with me. There's people in here, for example, who have life-altering pain, that will never go way, there's people who face prison because of a drunk driving fatality, there's people who have nothing to eat where before they were going on world cruises, and there's people like my sister (who I am visiting tomorrow) who has ALS and the doctors have said she has about six months to live, but she has decided to terminate her life on a day certain in three weeks, so she can donate her organs. So she is doing a modified bucket list. Yes, when I start to think of my problem, the addiction and withdrawal symptoms are nothing compared to what my sister (who is 66) CHOOSING the date of her death.
- I also try to constantly remind myself about the absurdity of a Vicodin addiction. Every addict knows that we build up a tolerance so it either takes more pills to "get high" or we simply need pills to feed the addiction, not to get high or experience a buzz. Because of my controlled dosage (2 pills every six hours) I am in the latter category.
Bonus Tip: I think it would also help to be honest with your doctor. Tell him or her about your addiction and that you want to "taper off." The doc can then regulate how many pills you get, and if you don't have an illegal source (friends, relatives, doctor shopping) the doctor can control your supply and simply cut you off if you stray from tapering off.
IMO it is the discipline aspect of this that causes most people to fail at the taper off method. When you have a fresh refill of 100 pills like I do (10/325, 2X every 6 hours) it is so tempting to not watch the clock or pill minder box, and to pop a few pills every four hours. Next thing you know you are saying "I'll start the taper-off next prescription." And after that 6 to 12 months have gone by without any changes in your abuse.
(The discipline part is why I think a good invention would be a "taper-off safe." It is a crack-proof safe, and maybe so expensive its cost will act as an additional deterrent to breaking it open. Anyway, what it would do is automatically dispense pills at times set. Let's say you load it up with 100 pills. In 6 hours it would dispense two pills, then two six hours later, then after four days it cuts back to two pills every 8 hours, then four days later, one pill every six hours, etc., etc. Eventually, you taper off.)
In regards to having help, you have to have a really good friend or significant other, and I mean really, really good. Someone who will force you to stick to the program and not cave to your demands.
Anyway, I am a disciplined person and can do the taper off. For example, I ran out of pills on Sunday. So I have gone almost three days now without "a hit." I am feeling it, the withdrawal symptoms, but I am doing things to keep busy, walking the dogs, taking an Ambien and getting to sleep at night, so that I am only awake 16 hours dealing with the withdrawal symptoms, watching movies, calling friends, and doing anything to not focus on the withdrawal symptoms."