I want to reduce my pain medicines

If you decide you want to reduce your medicines, then always talk to your healthcare team first – your pharmacist, nurse or general practitioner. They can help you develop a plan to make small, careful changes that are less likely to result in withdrawal.

The most important thing to remember is: never stop taking medicines suddenly.

This is because your body has got used to having the medicines there and stopping them too quickly can make you feel very unwell. One symptom of this withdrawal is pain and that can also be confusing, as you may think the medicine was working better than it actually was.

Understand how it will be done

You may have decided you want to reduce you medicines. Or you may have been advised to do so because they are not helping or are causing you problems. Either way, you must be sure you understand how it will be done.

Here are some things to ask:

  • Which dose of medicine should I reduce first and by how much?
  • Am I comfortable with taking that much away or can I take away less to start with?
  • How often will a reduction be made and do I think that is manageable for me at the moment?
  • What happens if I do not feel I can manage the reduction / change in dose? Who can I speak to?
  • When will this be reviewed?
  • What if my pain gets worse or I have a flare-up whilst reducing my medicine?

I’m worried I might be addicted to my pain medicines

This is a common concern amongst people prescribed pain-relieving medicines.

There has also been a lot of publicity over the last few years about these medicines, especially opioids like codeine, tramadol and morphine and stories about people who developed problem use.

For most people, substance misuse will not occur but dependence, where your body gets used to having the medicine and reacts when it is suddenly taken away or stopped (or a dose is missed) is much more common.

Withdrawing from a medicine can be really frightening, but that on its own, it not evidence of  ‘addiction’.

It is however, the reason that if you want to reduce your medicine or are advised it is safer to do so, it must be done by small changes and slowly enough for your body to adapt to each change.