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Why I Decided to Wean Off My Painkillers

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Editor’s note: Please consult your doctor before going on or off medication.

I’ve tried four different types of painkillers for my chronic pain over the last two years. I experience pain in almost all my muscles from mitochondrial disease. It can be aching, burning or sharp pain.

People often ask me what I’m taking to relieve the pain. A western approach to medicine and a bandaid fix to the problem. I’ve been on different drugs over the last year, and yet again I’m getting off them. In the end, none of the painkillers have really worked.

All of these painkillers have had side effects. Largely these have been physical but they also have mental side effects and consequences that might go unnoticed. The drug I’m currently getting off is a serotonin inhibitor, but it certainly hasn’t made me feel happy.

The main side effects have been hot sweats, so I look like a 29-year-old going through menopause. And nightmares every single night. Really horrible, vivid, scary nightmares. I’ve woken up some mornings upset, some mornings it takes me a good 10 minutes to work out what’s a dream and what’s reality, and I’m really over it. It’s certainly not a nice way to wake up every day.

Due to the chemical effects and danger of immediately stopping these drugs, I have to wean off them slowly. People who have immediately stopped taking them have experienced extreme withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, insomnia, anxiety and, ironically, pain.

This has taught me a valuable lesson. While I might really want to take something to help with the pain, not only should I be asking doctors what the benefits and side effects are, but it’s also important to ask about the process you need to undertake if you want to stop taking them too.

Having a chronic illness is a learning process. This lesson is tough and has impacted my daily life, but it’s also a great lesson in self-care.

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Photo via weiXx on Getty Images

Originally published: December 11, 2017
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