If you have ever been in severe, nonstop pain, there’s a good chance you’ve taken an opioid for relief. Maybe a doctor gave you a prescription for these potent pain killers after you underwent surgery or had a tooth pulled. Or perhaps it was to ease intolerable chronic pain that just wouldn’t go away. These drugs are very good at stifling acute pain, and for some people they are an important part of arthritis management. But for many others, opioids can become a kind of trap: a potentially dangerous drug that wreaks havoc on daily life, but that can’t be stopped easily.
Maybe you have been taking an opioid for pain, and you’d like to get off it. Maybe you’ve even tried. You’re not alone. Stopping or tapering these powerful medications isn’t easy and there’s no clear path to success, but it can be done. Here are the stories of several people who gave up opioids, why it was important for them and what it took.
Batya Blimes Lemier had used opioids to relieve her aching back and neck for over two decades. She has ankylosing spondylitis, a form of inflammatory arthritis, and initially the medications allowed her to maintain a busy schedule as the co-owner of a helicopter service. “I couldn’t get on a plane or go to my next meeting unless I took an opioid,” says Batya, 59, of Scottsdale, Arizona.
But chronic use of prescription opioids has many potential do