A reader writes in and asks: “What can I take instead of pills such as vicodin, opiates, or percocet? I am struggling to get off of these medications but I still have pain issues.”
Good question. That is a real problem that many opiate addicts face in recovery, of learning how to manage their pain without addictive medications. Of course much of it will depend on the type of pain that you have and what the source of it is.
The first thing you might want to do is to talk with a doctor. Ask them about alternatives and if they do not have much in the way of solutions then find a new doctor. Many doctors will be clueless about alternative pain management and will just keep pushing opiates on you. Simply find a second opinion and do not allow yourself to take any opiates.
Now in some cases you will be able to regulate your pain with over the counter medications. Again, consult a doctor. Some people do well by alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen throughout the day. Others do well with Naproxen (Aleve) which tends to last longer if it works for you. But it does not work for everyone, and some people have specific reasons that prevent them from using these medications. So, talk to your doctor.
In some special cases you might be a good candidate for Suboxone. Some people take this synthetic partial opiate for long term drug maintenance so that they do not use heroin or other opiates. But some people use it specifically for pain, and any doctor can prescribe it for the use of pain and they do not need a special course to prescribe it (like they do to prescribe it for drug maintenance therapy). There are some drawbacks with this route though so you should not just jump on the Suboxone idea and use it automatically as your solution. For one thing, the medication is expensive. For another thing, it will lead to some level of dependency, even though there is not as much abuse potential with it and it will not really get you “high” like other opiates will.
Finally, you might look into holistic methods of pain management as a way to supplement your other efforts at controlling pain. If you can use massage or hot tub therapy or other holistic approaches, then this will ultimately help you reduce your need for medication and allow you to be free from opiates.
The goal is not to be completely pain free, remember. The goal is to be able to live comfortably with a reasonable level of pain. Some people who have been on opiate drugs for too long have to readjust their idea of what is manageable. For some addicts, if they feel any pain at all, it is simply not tolerable. In order to get off of opiate drugs, this is going to have to change, or they will never make it.