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Dr. Beth Darnall has researched the inadequacy of the medical establishment’s current response to people with chronic pain. She is Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at Stanford University and treats individuals and groups at the Stanford Pain Management Center.
On my radio show POPPOFF, Dr. Darnall told me that “pain is your harm alarm, and you need to be able to turn the harm alarm off.” But the key is how to get off those pain killers. She tackles the issue in her book “Less Pain, Fewer Pills” Avoid the dangers of prescription Opioids and gain control over Chronic Pain.
The good Doc truly believes you can taper off prescription Opiods, and she shared seven tips for success.
1) TALK WITH YOUR DOCTOR. Always talk to your prescribing doctor before making medication changes. This is the first step in any opiod tapering program. Most doctors are happy to help their patients reduce their medication.
2) TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Plan to start to taper when life is relatively calm. Avoid the holidays or times when work or family stress are particularly high. You want to set yourself up for success. Stress creates challenges and worsens pain.
3) OPIOIDS SHOULD BE YOUR ONLY MEDICATION CHANGE DURING THE TAPER. Many people fall into the trap of trying to change more than one medication at a time. It’s a setup for failure. Think of your taper as an experiment. When things are calm and you are clear about the result from that change, you can consider making changes to the next medication.
4) GO S-L-O-W. THE TURTLE WINS THE RACE. Some doctors will suggest a quick taper of 1-2 weeks. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. By tapering slowly, you can prevent symptoms of withdrawal, stress, and anxiety.
5) USE YOUR MIND-BODY SKILLS. Optimize success with opioid tapering by focusing on calming your mind and body regularly throughout each day. Calming your mind and body needs to be your main priority during the taper period.
6) WATCH YOUR CHOICES. Resist the temptation to make many life changes during your opioid taper. If you decide to taper opioids, keep the rest of your life at a constant. If you already walk twice weekly for thirty minutes, stay with that if it is working for you. You can ramp up your activity level or make other changes once you are through with the taper.
7) GET EXTRA SUPPORT. Your medical or psychological circumstances may require more structure and support.
If your doctor recommends additional support, or if you are running into problems, consider working with a medical professional who can closely supervise your taper.
To date, more Americans have died from prescription drug overdoses than died in the Vietnam War. According to Dr. Darnall this constitutes a national emergency. So far only Ibuprofen and Tylenol are the only alternatives, yet chronic pain affects more Americans than heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined.
Check out www.BethDarnall.com. “Less Pain, Fewer Pills” might give you new insight. STAY WELL!
From the files of Mary Jane Popp at KAHI Radio in Sacramento, California
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