Opioids rank as the most commonly prescribed medication in the U.S., according to research from the University of Pennsylvania. This highly addictive class of drugs, which also includes the street drug heroin, relieves pain effectively, but can also lead to physical and mental addiction.

If you’re looking for ways to manage opioid use, you’re not alone. The large number of people looking for help has resulted in a vast array of resources to help you reduce the number of painkillers you take or give you strategies to stop taking them all together. Here are four tips on how you can manage opioid use:

1. Talk to someone you trust

Whether that person is a doctor, family member, or other medical health professional, recruiting someone you trust into your arsenal of support can help you manage any overwhelming feelings you may encounter while trying to control your opioid use. A trusted advisor can help you find avenues of support and help guide you if you feel you have nowhere to turn.

2. Slow down opioid use under a doctor’s care

If you’ve been using opioids for a while to manage pain, you may have a physical addiction. This means that your body has become so accustomed to operating under the influence of opioids that it needs them to operate normally. If you stop opioid use cold turkey, you may experience opioid withdrawal. This uncomfortable period, which can include anxiety, anger, nausea, and vomiting, can last for about 30 hours, according to the National Institutes of Health. To alleviate these feelings, doctors sometimes work with patients to gradually decrease the number of pills taken, in a process called tapering. An alternative is to stop using opioids completely, but take another medication to lessen the side effects of withdrawal instead. Talk to your doctor to determine the best course of action to follow.

3. Find a support group

Support groups, including your local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous or groups formed by your local health center or hospital, can help you connect with others going through similar issues.

If you prefer the anonymity of an online support group, many do exist. AddictionSurvivors.org runs an opioid-specific support group, where you can find answers to all your questions, including how to taper off your opioid use and even resources to proceed through the popular 12-step recovery program without attending in-person meetings. ChronicPainSupportGroup.com offers a Facebook-based support group for those suffering from chronic pain and its side effects.

4. Consider alternatives to opioid use

If you turned to opioids to manage chronic pain, know that many healthier, safer alternatives can also help alleviate pain. Researchers say that methods ranging from meditation to yoga to a healthy diet, based on unprocessed, whole foods, can help lessen your pain and improve your quality of life. Alternative methods of treatment, including injected medicines called nerve blocks that interfere with nerves as they send messages of pain, may also help reduce the number of opioids you take.

What methods have you found to be effective for managing your opioid use?

Image by Kevin Dooley via Flickr 

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