Vicodin Withdrawal Information
Previous - this entry written on February 11, 2004 at 7:18 pm - Next

Y'know, every now and then when I'm checking stats I come across something that isn't either boring or funny. Occasionally, VERY occasionally, I find something worth talking about, something that wouldn't have even entered my mind to have a serious entry about.

So. Here's the link. I'm down at the bottom there. Take a good look. Most of the other things listed above me are medical sites, clinical, cold, and (I speak from experience) pretty much useless regarding withdrawals. Why?

Because they list EVERY possible thing, or ONLY the bare minimum. They don't tell you much. They certainly don't tell it from personal experience. It's all research, clinical trials, great if you're writing a report and lousy if you're sitting at the computer, shaking, trembling, wanting to know WHY you can't keep your mind off your pill bottle.

Let me give you the information that I would give anyone who asked me about vicodin withdrawal... or opiate withdrawal in general:

First off, it sucks. No one who hasn't been through it will ever be able to describe the suckiness of it, and the reason is that they never had the good buzz that you did. You know that point when you literally FEEL the vicodin high wash over you, leaving you painless, happy, unable to worry, unable to hurt, so full of peace that you just want to sit there and enjoy it? Yeah, the high you only get after intense pain, when the pain stops. People who haven't done opiates don't know how good that feels. They don't understand that after days, weeks, months of pain you would claw your way to hell and back for the relief and contentment found in those little white pills. You want them.

Thing is, and I suspect you'll back me up on this, it's not entirely the buzz. Yeah, it's great, but it's not all there is. The more you take, the more your body gets used to. When it gets used to that whole 'not hurting' thing and you then go OFF the vicodin, poof, no more pills, EVERYTHING bad hits you, doubled, tripled, until you can barely believe that you were surviving this before you had vicodin.

It's. Not. As. Bad. As. It. Feels.

Seriously. This is why people who haven't HURT don't understand the RELIEF. They have nothing to contrast it against, they don't get it, don't know how to relate to it. You do. You've felt the pain. You've felt the absence-of-pain, even the pleasure. And now? Now that those little white pills are gone? Now the pain rushes back, and it hits you that hard because you're afraid it'll stay. Some small part of your mind is already convinced that there's only those pills. Nothing else can save you. Nothing else can ease your agony. And you don't have them. It's horrible, you can't clear your head enough to tell how much of your pain is Actual Pain and how much is the withdrawal screaming for more, how much is your body in full panic mode, how much is NEW pain... of the things that scares me the most is having something bad go wrong with my body just after I've stopped taking Vicodin for a while. Why? Because I'm never sure how much of it is addiction. I've gotten a LOT better after many years of kidney stones, bladder infections, kidney infections, chest infections, strep... I'm able to accurately judge my pain level 90% of the time. And yet there's still that little bit of doubt that maybe I'm not hurting...

...followed by the worry that I might think it's withdrawal and it will actually be something serious.

If you know you're going to run out soon, if you find this particular set of worries hitting you, here's a couple things to do:

1) Supplies. There's a lot of things that DO help with pain that aren't opiates. Stock up. Get your hands on an icepack, a heating pad, some asprin, advil, alieve, a thermometer, ice cubes, icy-hot, your favorite tea, and hard candies. Why hard candies? Your body is really only capable of focusing on a limited amount of sensations. Sucking a candy, listening to music, a heating pad or ice pack near the area that hurts (or my trick - one on the hurt, one somewhere else, even more sensation), tea to sip... the more distraction the better, the more of your senses it hits, the better.

2) Lists. Get yourself a big notebook and start writing down everything you can about the pain you feel. Where does it hurt? How would you rate it on a 1-10 scale? Is it a pain you've felt before or something new? Does it change when you change positions? Does it get worse or better when you eat or drink or go to the bathroom? Does temperature affect it? (Here's where the thermometer comes in - if you're having cold sweats, or hot flashes, take your temp every half-hour and write it down each time.)

The more you write, the easier it becomes to keep track of what you feel and when you feel it. If you notice a pattern over a couple days, painful urination for example, or throwing up every time you eat fish... that's when you talk to a doctor. Otherwise, just the act of writing it out often helps make it go away, if it's withdrawals.


The next hard part, one of THE worst things to interact with when you're addicted, is your family and friends. Yeah, I know that sounds kinda backward, aren't they the ones who are helping you? Aren't they the ones who care?

Yes, and that's the problem. When you're dealing with addiction, particularly if you're still in pain, still taking medication, it gets incredibly frustrating to have everyone checking, telling you you're taking too much, reminding you that you're addicted. You KNOW. You might not want to talk about it, but you KNOW. It's embarassing. It feels almost shameful, a guilty secret... and when your friends try to turn into your wardens it makes life just that much harder to cope with.

Here's what you do: sit down with the people who pester you, and talk. One big long talk, telling them WHY you're on the medication... WHEN you will be going off it... and how much help you want. That's the key there - if you have asked them for help, it will be much less invasive. Much like the difference between being dragged to the E.R. and going to see the doctor - if it's Your Choice it is usually better. So talk to them. Tell them that it bothers you when they do X, that you would appreciate it if they do Y, and that you understand they are/will be doing both out of affection, care, even love. You don't blame them, you're not angry with them, but you need their help to get through this and part of that help is backing off sometimes.

I do NOT advise just telling them all to fuck off. You need to have at least one other person who sees you on a fairly frequent basis aware of the issue - that one person becomes a sort of home base, somewhere that you can feel safe taking pills around because they KNOW you're taking pills... and more than that, they know you are aware of the potential problems.

*wry grin*

Physical symptoms? Hell, those you can get from almost any medical website. You know the descriptions. You've probl'ly looked there already. Just keep in mind that it's different for everyone. My withdrawals include a headache, massive PMS-ish behavior, and stiffness in my arms and legs from over-tensed muscles. One of my friends actually throws up when she goes through withdrawal. It's going to be different for you, for anyone.

You'll know when it hits, though. The moment when you're thinking of calling up the doctor and asking for more. The minute when you look at your empty bottle and want to throw it against the wall. The way your hands tremble as you take aspirin, your body hoping, begging, getting nothing.

You'll know.

When you know, when it hits, tough it out. The worst stuff is gone in a week. If you can't make it, if you're still in pain, if for any reason you end up back on those wonderful little pills, just shrug. Accept it. Use them... and the next time, try to go a couple more days without. Little steps, if you have to.

And hey, I'll be here. If there's one thing I'm willing to do, it's to be a shoulder to cry on over this kind of thing. I've had people lend me theirs to cry on, and... yeah. Life balances out.

You'll get through it.

(A similar post regarding depression, mental illness, and vicodin use can be found here.)

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