: Drugs, alcohol and mental health

Discuss the twin challenges of mental health and substance use

28 replies

Taper vs Cold Turkey My Story

Hi I’ve read a lot on these forums about tapering against cold turkey and thought I’d put my own story out there to see if can help anybody going through or considering to go through opiate withdrawal. I’m by no means an expert on this nor do I advocate one particular route, what I’m writing on here comes from my own personal experience and basically what worked for me.

I’ve been addicted to codeine for 10 years with a routine of taking 15-20 30mg codeine phosphate tablets every night around 11pm, enjoying the high for a couple of hours then going to bed, this was how it was for the past 5 years at least. In the early days my dosage was lower but still followed the same pattern. I first started taking them after being prescribed the pills following surgery and quickly realising that if I took a few extra id get a buzz and feel nicely relaxed and that was it I was hooked. Like most addicts I knew fairly early on that I was addicted but tended to just push it to the back of my mind as I liked the high too much, it wasn’t until the last few years that I knew there was a major problem. I was spending around £100 per month to subsidise the 200 tablets that I got on prescription, I wouldn’t eat a large meal after 6pm so as to get the best possible high on an empty stomach, whilst on holidays abroad I would have to make excuses to run back to the room every night before my wife so I could quickly take my fix. Not to mention to overall effect on our relationship as id always be up till the early hours waking my wife up when I finally went to bed at 1 or 2 am. Id then roll in from work and have to sleep every afternoon for a couple hours. The addiction literally had consumed me completely.

From about 2014 onwards I wanted to quit and decided like most do that I would taper my dosage down, confidently believing that I would simply drop my dosage each week till I was eventually clean. The trouble was I was in control of my taper as nobody else was aware of my addiction and therefore everything would start well and then after a few days of cutting down, sometimes down to 4 or 5 tablets a night and id think to myself as I have done really well I will “reward” myself tonight and id take 12 or 15 that night, the problem was because id cut my dosage down id normally get a real high when I up’t the dose, and then I’d just tell myself that id start the taper again next week and so on and so on. This went on for years.

Id attempted cold turkey half-heartedly on a few occasions but never really believed I’d do it id maybe go one night and then the early withdrawals would kick in albeit mild but enough to make me think that again id jump back on my tablets that night and maybe would quit the next week instead or start another half hearted taper. It was like a revolving door. I think the problem with opiates as you all know is that you can function just enough to keep a lid on it so much that even those closest to you are blissfully unaware of your problem. Even though you are sinking deeper with every dose.

Friday 1st march this year was a normal day, nothing different about my routine. I woke up feeling the usual grogginess after taking 18 tablets or 540 mg the night before. The day past as normal and it was getting towards bed time, we had our 2 year old grandson staying so decided we’d watch tv in bed and went up to bed a bit earlier so the grandson could fall asleep. I cannot give any real reason why but lying there waiting for the clock to get near 11 I decided I wasn’t taking them that night. Maybe it was lying next to my beautiful little grandson realising that I was not the role model he believed I was and that if things did not change I may not be around to watch him grow up as the levels I was taking could really be fatal or eventually I could lose my family due to the stress I was placing on our relationship. Whatever it was it came from nowhere but I went to sleep that night without any codeine. The next day I woke up with very mild symptoms but nothing I couldn’t handle. And seemed to have a real confidence that I should try and get through another night and see where I was after that. Day 2 came and I woke up again feeling not right but still managed to function going out shopping with my wife etc. the feeling was similar to that when you are coming down with a flu or cold. I very quickly realised that this was going to be my best chance ever of becoming clean and went about arming myself with vitamins, protein shakes, Imodium and anything I could think of that would fuel my body with the right things to get me through the coming days.

Days 3 and 4 came and went without any real issues other than insomnia kicking in big style. But Instead of lying around the house I busied myself everyday walking for miles with my dog and constantly taking vitamins and supplements. It was at this point that I thoroughly knew and believed that I could actually do this and I was not under any circumstances going back now! I visited my gp on day 5 and explained the situation in full, this helped me immensely as they made me aware they were there to help if things got worse. It also stopped my main source of pills. I was given a sleeping tablet to help through the early stages with the insomnia but really I look back now and think that that maybe prolonged the insomnia so I would proceed with caution if anybody is thinking about that route. Unless it’s very short term. Day 7 was a pivotal day as I disposed and burned all my codeine, 240 tablets popping away in a fire. I absolutely knew at this point I had no alternative but to see this through.

In less than 2 weeks’ time I will be 90 days clean. I would be lying if I said that it had been easy, but id also be lying if I said it had been hell. I have been extremely lucky to the point that during this I have only really suffered physically symptoms. I somehow have avoided depression, anxiety, mood swings and other associated mental symptoms. I wonder if this is down to that fact that there were no mental reasons for me starting to abuse codeine, as I’ve already stated I was prescribed for pain relief and I simply enjoyed the high. As I say above its been no bed of roses, things I have suffered with in the early stages were insomnia, looseness on the toilet, constant sneezing and constant itch in the nose (like hayfever) a cough which I still have now. Most of these have worn off now but perhaps the most debilitating thing that persists is drowsiness and fatigue and sporadic insomnia (this is never more than maybe once or twice a week at most). It’s not every day but there are some days where I simply feel drained of energy and motivation. It’s difficult to explain to someone how bad that can feel especially if you need to be active. But on the whole I would say writing this today I am probably 85% back to normal. And that’s pretty amazing considering how much I abused my body for 10 years.

Anybody reading this thinking oh my god here is someone that’s 3 months clean and still has symptoms don’t be alarmed. You learn to live and deal with these days, you start to understand that this is a process and you become very patient and allow these days to come and pass knowing in your heart and mind that each day you are healing and becoming stronger. I have done more in this last 3 months than id done in the last 10 years, I walk for miles each week, I live super healthy now, back then I liked a drink and would often drink 4 cans of lager a night whilst taking the codeine. I have probably had no more than 10 cans of lager in the last 3 months! and again as I write this I have not had a drink of alcohol for over 3 weeks. that’s not because I’m abstaining it’s because I now value my health and mind so much more and have no real interest in drinking it was just part of the codeine ritual. My relationship with my wife has gone back to where we were when we first married and we are so much closer now. Even though sleep can still sometimes be difficult it is an amazing feeling to now just go to bed when I’m tired this can be 9.30 if I want or whenever. My body is still healing, I am well aware of this and understand there may still be more hurdles to cross ahead. But when you see and feel how your life changes in such a short period of time you gain a mental strength to never want to go back to that dark period of your life. If I’m honest I am a better person for being through it. I am my own hero in one sense as I am achieving something so many cannot do. But my message to anybody out there is get off these poisoness tablets as soon as you can. Ride out the storm and you will be amazed at how quickly you get your fight mode switched on to win the battle!! I cannot stress enough that seeking medical help from your gp is a must if you are to win this war, your gp is your ally, they can provide resources when you are up against it. If you see a gp that isn’t supportive make an appointment with another until you have the support you need. You will be amazed at the strength you gain from knowing there’s help out there if things get tough.

I am just a normal bloke, nothing special about me. I’m not strong willed or publicly confident or have any particular abilities that would set me apart from anybody reading this in a similar situation. But what I am is living proof that you can go from being a serious opiate addict to a clean living healthy normal person in as little as 3 months. If I’m absolutely honest by about week 3 I was functioning comfortably enough to lead a fairly normal life without drugs. I am not there yet, I understand that and have accepted that to reach that 100% normal feeling may take many more months or even longer. But the doom that I was filled with before I quit and in the early days of recovery is now replaced with excitement about waking up every morning knowing that whilst there is the odd bad days there are far more good days where I feel alive again. I do still think about the high feeling sometimes and yes I would say I can miss that feeling sometimes, but it’s like when you have been in a relationship with someone that was bad and didn’t work and you might miss a few things about that person but you know in your heart that you’ve moved on and it’s for the better and you’d never go back because it’s all in the past and you’re in a far better place now.

Sorry this post has been so long but I had a lot to cover, in summing it all up tapering never worked for me, it may work for some but I believe the self-discipline required has to be immense especially if you are doing it alone, It may be easier if you can give up your supply and get somebody to give you your dosage daily. I guess what I am saying is if my thoughts on tapering are similar to yours and you can relate to that then you may want to consider going cold turkey, I genuinely believe if you make it through the first 2-3 days that you find a will power from somewhere within to push you through! Please though understand fully what it entails and ensure that you are physically capable of dealing with this and you should really seek medical advice first although I appreciate this is one of the hardest things to do especially if you are on a repeat prescription as effectively this cuts the supply, but as stated somewhere above if you are to beat this then you really need to follow this advice.

I have found and used numerous vitamins and supplements and will be happy to let anybody know what worked for me if they are interested. This is another part of the process as mentally to know your pumping all of this goodness into your body helps with all aspects of your recovery.

if even one person reads this and it sets them on the path to being clean then I will be delighted. I am walking talking proof that you can and will win your battle!!

replying to Neil1628

Well done mate, the mental state and breaking the habit is so easy when you get it, but so fucking hard when you don't, the grandson most definatly helped flick that switch, just like my son did to me.

I've been addicted to opiates, amphetamines, and dependant on many drugs over the years so I know what it's like well done keep it up.

I'm still using coke by the way but getting on best I have done for a long while, just like to be open with people so I can feel a bit better being honest and people know who I really am, much respect ????????????

replying to Neil1628

Can’t thank you enough for this post. Huge well done to you!

I’m only on day 1!!!!!

I’ve gone completely cold turkey having run out of all codeine and no access or funds to anymore.

I could taper because I’d just end up caving to get the high I wanted and in the end it took 16 x 30mg to give me that High. But i’d Be taking around 14-16 four times a day!

You can imagine that 100 tabs didn’t last me very long at all!!!

All day I’ve been violently sick with nothing in my stomach so that’s been horribly but inbetween that just sleeping and sweating buckets and the standard hot and cold!!

I have to do this. Of others can I can. I can’t keep going sick at work - this just means when I’ve run out of pills and the physical effects are too severe to work on.

I’m ashamed and I want to rid of this. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s me living this and writing this but it is!

The amount of money I spend a month is ridiculous and the break down in anything else I get pleasure from has seriously depleted!

I suffer from anxiety and depression already and am already on the highest dose of fluoxetine I can have so I do worry about that but if I change my life through getting off this then I think I can do it.

Clearly the physical for me is very very hard and honestly I feel absolutely horrendous but I think it’s the quickest way to get this over and done with; I clearly can’t be self willed enoughed to taper so cold turkey it is.

Please advise the next vitamins for me to take. I know it’s going to be another couple of days of the worst physical symptoms but what was the point in today’s hell if I just have to do it another time!

Thanks for reading. Can’t believe this is my reality!

1 reply

replying to Neil1628

Good evening,

Thanks for reading my post and I’m glad to hear you have ran out of codeine as those levels of intake could have been fatal. I’m not going to congratulate you or tell you well done yet as you have not yet achieved anything as your cold turkey has been brought on by simply running out. However what is positive is that you’ve recognised that live will be better without drugs and also perhaps more importantly you are aware of the effort it takes and getting through one day you can then get through the next.

Ask yourself this question, if you were to go to your medication cupboard and find a box of codeine would you a) take 16 immediately and enjoy the high telling yourself you’ll quit next week instead or b) realise that you’ve made it through day one and decide to flush the tablets as you really wish to quit.

If you answer a then it’s unlikely your ready to quit and will probably take again as soon as you can replenish your supply. If it’s b then I am willing to mentor you through this and help you as much as I can.

I may sound harsh but recovery is hard and you have to mentally want to quit 100% to have any hope of achieving the goal of being clean. When I quit I had 260 codeine tablets in my cupboard 3 days after quitting I burnt the lot. That’s a lot different to simply running out.

Let me know how you answer the question and if you believe your ready. There is no right or wrong answer as it took me several attempt before I mentally knew the time was right.

The best way to look at Recovery in my opinion is that it’s like recovering from a badly broken bone. It’s bloody painful at first, then the pain eases as the weeks go by but your not going to be fully fit for at least 3-6 months if not longer. In essence you have broken your body and it needs to heal so even from day one you are healing. But be prepared for hard work and effort especially in the early days, then it gets easier and I would say I’m almost fully healed today, 4 months clean now.

I will help you if you want it !

replying to Neil1628

hi all, wow what a story I'm glad you made it through and you have turned your life around. Codeine is a wonderful drug when used for what it is for. I on the other hand just abused it because it felt good and the current pandemic stress made me hit f*** it levels. I was like you, only in the evening etc, same time every day around 7ish, 60-120 sometimes 180mg. I'm now currently on about 210 a day or 180 in 30mg doses but was taking 120mg 4 times a day. I'm having a horrible withdrawal but I'm on other meds too so I think that could be why. I'm going to slowly taper by a pill every 2-3 days until I'm down to 3 or 2 and cold turkey as I want my brain to slowly withdraw instead of withdrawing and it taking me the same amount of time to remove all withdrawal symptoms. Never again am I touching codeine if I feel this bad, I think thats been a big motivator for me. I have diazepam which is going to help me when I'm on my cold turkey incase I feel tempted to take it again. You can't mix opiods and benzodiazepines as it would be fatal so it will be a way of forcing my way out. Diazepam also helps with sleep and I've taken it many times before without being addicted so I think it's a good choice for me but it may not be for others. For anyone reading who currently withdrawing or is thinking about quitting, get it done. This is going to hit you either now or twice as hard in the future because as your tolerance grows so will the hole you dig into the codeine pit. Taper off slowly if you're on a dose of +500mg, if you can't then speak to your gp for help. If you want to cold turkey be very careful as withdrawal can send you back on a codeine binge and make you overdose as your tolerance has dropped. Stay safe out there in these crazy times and look after yourselves, keep motivated, don't think of the money think of your life, loved ones, family and friends just like OP. Good luck all

replying to Neil1628

Hello, thanks for sharing your stories, it’s good to know there are other people in the same boat as me.

I’ll cut a long story short with my battle but I was given tramadol by my parents at age 16 for a headache, I’m now 27 and have been using Tramadol/Codeine ever since. I’ve used various amounts and obtained them through various methods. I’ve tried tapering and going cold turkey a couple of times but not succeeded.

Moving in with my partner a year ago meant that I could no longer keep it a secret, it was embarrassing to admit but I needed help. We’ve managed to taper over the last week & I’m now on day 2 of complete withdrawal and feel okay. I have the flu like symptoms already (not corona hopefully), feel fatigued & sweaty but it’s not unbearable.

I’m not looking forward to what’s coming but adamant to kick it, my partners aware and will be very patient/supportive. Do you have any ideas on what to use to help with the symptoms or how to tackle it?


replying to Neil1628

Hello, thank you for your story! Well done to you for sticking to this! I’m on day three cold turkey. Taking up to 15 nurofen plus a day. My only real big symptom is lower back pain. It’s horrid. Restless legs at night, agitated, stomach issues. Can I ask what vitamins helped you through this? I’m determined to stay off for good.

1 reply

replying to Neil1628

Hi. I’m not sure about telling my partner, he is very loving but he isn’t supportive of his mother continuing to smoke cigarettes and I realise he is scared she will get sick because of her smoking but he just expects her to stop- he doesn’t seem to recognise smoking is addictive and I am worried he will take the same attitude towards my Nurofen Plus addiction? Also I guess part of me thinks if I tell him then my cover is blown and his knowing will be another form of pressure that I don’t want to deal with. At the moment the biggest issue I am worried about is if I go cold turkey tomorrow then I will have to deal with the withdrawal physical symptoms alone.

replying to Neil1628

Associating addictions is understandable but they’re very different, I would like to think he would be able to understand that.

It was sooo hard for me to tell my partner properly but it really helped but maybe your not ready, just try not to stress about it. You weren’t ready but not sure you have a choice?

replying to Chas321

Hi Chas, just remember you're not alone. This time is stressful enough so don't worry about putting more on yourself if you feel it will make things worse. I'm on day 6 of withdrawal and almost all of my physical symptoms have gone. You have to hit f**k it level and put yourself through the storm, just vent as much as you can here about how you feel. I told my partner straight off but that's just because I am a very strong character who doesn't let someone know without them understanding. It's not always necessarily not wanting to understand but perhaps they just can't because they've never experienced it. Hope this helps.

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