My Story: Going Off Hydrocodone Cold Turkey

My Story: Going Off Hydrocodone Cold Turkey

The other day — partly because of my own stupidity and partly because the only pharmacy in the small town I live in closes at 7 p.m. — I had to go off hydrocodone cold turkey.

And it was hell.

The Food and Drug Administration wants to reclassify drugs that contain hydrocodone as Schedule II drugs. That could mean patients with a legitimate need for hydrocodone may face new hurdles in getting it.

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell

While I didn’t have to wait for a refill because of that, I did find myself in a position where I had to go off the drug cold turkey. That’s a position many pain patients may find themselves in if the new regulations go through.

It may not seem like much to make a person who suffers from chronic pain to wait an extra day or two to get things straightened out, but that extra day or two can be extremely traumatic.

I ran out on a Wednesday evening and I immediately went over to the pharmacy to ask them to call in a refill. But the doctor’s office had already closed. They said they couldn’t refill it until the next day.

No big deal. I could make it through the night. And I didn’t want to make a federal case out of it and come off like a crazy drug addict.

So, back home I went.

Normally going one night really wouldn’t be that bad, because I take a pretty strong drug to make me fall asleep.

But I had to go into the office the next day. On no pain drugs. And, because my office is two hours away, that meant I wouldn’t get home in time to pick up the prescription before the pharmacy closed for the night.

My mom ended up driving me to work because I realized that the two-hour drive each way would make me suicidal.

Even with her help though, going off the hydrocodone cold turkey was still enough to almost kill me.

When I got to work, I headed right for the bathroom, because I had buckets of diarrhea shooting out of me.

My palms were sweating and my rib pain was intensifying.

I lived through that and went to a morning meeting.

After that, I had planned to go to lunch with my mom, but suddenly my boss decided she wanted to take our team out to lunch. So I had to look professional for a two-hour business lunch while I was in opioid withdrawal.

I popped some Tylenol hoping it would help take the edge off.

After I got back from lunch I told my editor that I’d be over to his office in a bit to talk after I finished up some work at my desk.

Then, I ran to the bathroom. More diarrhea.

I was so weak, and my muscles hurt so bad that I just sat on the toilet with my jeans around my ankles, leaned my head against the blue bathroom stall, and prayed to die.

I got myself together, pulled up my pants, washed my hands and made it back to my desk, where I laid on the floor, resting my head on my puffy pink coat, until I could find the will to stand up again.

When I finally walked over to my editor’s desk, so much time had passed that he said, “Wow, you must have had a lot of work to do. I thought you might have left for the day.”

We chatted for a bit, and then I ran back to the bathroom. More diarrhea.

I wanted to go to the hospital so bad. My ribs hurt like hell. My body ached all over. And I just wanted to be dead.

I thought about laying on the floor by my desk in the fetal position and making my mom come up to the office to get me.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I gathered up all the strength inside me, and got my things together so I could go home for the day.

As I walked over to say goodbye to my boss, I thought maybe I had at least pulled off giving him the impression that everything was fine. But when I told him I was leaving, he said, “Wow, it looks like you barely made it through the day.”

I tried to sleep on the way home, while my mom drove, but I was in so much pain that I wouldn’t really call it sleeping. Needless to say, we didn’t make it home in time to get to the stupid pharmacy before they closed at 7 p.m.

And so, I had a long night ahead of me.

I tried to go to sleep as soon as I walked in the door, but every single joint in my body hurt.

It felt like a knife was in my ribs, and pain was radiating through my bones. I kept having to run to the toilet because of the diarrhea, but there was nothing left inside of me to come out.

I prayed for relief.

I prayed with all my heart that God would let me die that night. That he would take my life. That I would finally get the true relief I’ve been seeking for months and I would get to go to heaven.

I begged God for this to end.

My ankles felt simultaneously swollen, sprained and twisted. It felt like I had full-on tendonitis in my wrists. My body felt broken — all over.

And I didn’t think I would make it through the night.

Hydrocodonebtibu75200I tossed and turned.

I thought about suicide. I thought about how much I hated hydrocodone.

I thought that once it got out of my system I would never go back on it.

But even as I thought it, I immediately knew it was a lie.

I knew I would go back on it the very second I got a refill in the morning. I knew because while my whole body was attacking me, there were my right ribs, screeching at me, haunting me, reminding me that I needed the hydrocodone because of my intercostal neuralgia.

My amazing mom drove to the pharmacy in the morning to get my refill, and when the new dosage kicked in, I finally felt like I could breathe again.

I don’t want to be on this stupid drug. I really, really don’t. I hate that half the doctors I see accuse me of being a drug addict. I hate that I have to constantly wonder if I am a drug addict.

But, even more than that, I hate living my life feeling like I’ve just been stabbed in the ribs.

Some people out there might choose to forego the hydrocodone so they could avoid being on an opioid. Some people might be strong enough to persevere through this horrible, horrible intercostal neuralgia pain that I have without strong pain pills. Some people might be able to live like that.

I am not one of those people.

Quality of life matters to me.

Having even a few hours a day when the pain is at a minimum is important to me. And if that means my body is physically dependent on a federally regulated opioid, then so be it.

12_7.jpgCrystal Lindell is journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, Burn Notice reruns on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She also has been diagnosed with intercostal neuralgia, a painful disorder of the nerves running between her ribs.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.

National Pain Report invites other readers to share their stories with us.

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The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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Jill McCoy

I don’t know what your doage is Crystal but I understand your philosophy. I was diagnosed with lower back osteoarthritis in 1987. I did what I need to do to keep this underestimated monster at bay. Kept my weight down and lived a very active life. My job aggravated my pain but I duked it ou , have been stoic and brave when inside I was crying from the pain. Did not go on hydrocodene untill age 61 eight years ago. I got up to 6 pills a day, went off cold turkey for a year taking huge amounts of advil, then went back on. Now I’m up to 3 a day and of course know where I am headed. I have made the decision that I will take whatever I need to remain active. Arthritis is in every joint of my body. I will not give up hiking, biking, gardening, camping even if it means I am an opiate addict. Doctors wanted me on an active lifestyle but now won’t give me what I need to retain it. If I sit on a ocuch I’ll be in a wheelchair in a year on full strength anti-depressants. I’m really afraid of what a reclassification will mean to me.

I read the article on Crystal Lindell going off hydrocodone cold turkey. I was wondering what dose she was on and how often she takes it. Thank you.

Wow, I am impressed! I have chronic pain Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Spinal Stenosis with nerve entrapment. Walking is excruciating and the pain becomes so severe I fall over because of the nerves in my back. I have muscle twitching and jerking. Yet, my Doctors continue to say “You need to stay active!” We don’t prescribe pain meds for chronic pain because of the risk of addiction. I had to buy a wheelchair even though my insurance will cover it because my Doctor will not take me seriously when I tell her I have fallen. I have even qualified for Social Security Disability, yet I had to beg for a handicapped sticker. I am encouraged to find that there are Doctors out there who will help with pain. I just haven’t found one yet I guess:(


I can totally relate to your story, but I was on oxycodone/oxycontin. I do agree that some small amount of relief from chronic pain is definitely a goal, however, as I painfully found out, there is such a fine line between real pain (2 cervical fusions/1lumbar fusion) and psychological pain. I am not suggesting that this is your issue, I would just caution you to really be careful. I hate the fact that I am now afraid to take any pain medication and actually recently underwent minor surgery without meds, but the idea of withdrawals scare the hell out of me and I never what to live that hell again.. I pray you find relief from your pain.

Your story moved me greatly. And it scared me too, since I’m on opioids. I have had fibromyalgia for about 15 years. The pain didn’t get bad enough to go on opioids until a few years ago. Two Vicodin get me through the work (job), taking the pain down to a level 4-6 and one 15 mg morphine takes the pain at night (it’s much worse at night) down to a 2 or 3 so I can cook, read, do dishes, and sleep at night. I am very lucky that I have a pain management doctor who is willing/experienced at prescribing pain meds. People who have not experienced chronic pain cannot conceive of what our life experience is like. Along with all of the fea-mongering re opioid use there needs to be a LOT more public/national education re our experiences/stories.


I use duragesic patches to help manage my pain. I’m usually pretty diligent about calling in for my refills on time because the medications I take are the only thing keeping my pain at a somewhat manageable level. A couple of years ago I ran out over the weekend. Normally I would have called on Friday but I had a hectic day and I just forgot.

My patch was supposed to be changed on Saturday morning. The clinic is not open on the weekend. I really didn’t want to go to ER or urgent care because they are cracking down so hard on opioids and I didn’t want to take the risk of being labeled a drug seeker, even though my need is legitimate. So, I decided I could make it. Hey, it’s only until Monday morning, right? Saturday and Sunday were HELL. I had muscle cramps that would not stop, nausea, dihareha

Diane Hendrick

I to know & have written & said the same thing as you I have had Spinal Funsion Surgery where they were able to fix some vertabrates but many others had already fused the wrong way leaving nerve on nerve contact, Fibromyligia, & arthritics retired on Disability & my quality of life is nearly nothing. I am & will be the rest of my life under a Ortha Dr’s care & now on a opion pain patch & morphine I am addict but I NEVER abuse my medicine I take exactly as prescribed & many times that does not help the Chronic pain. I to do not want to be on this medicine but a few years back a son of mine who was a drug addict stole all my pain medicine I thought I will be okay as it was a Thursday & was to see the Dr on Monday Ifiled a police report but when woke up Saturday morning I was like you but worse the withdrawals so bad I wanted to die. I was able to contact a member of my Dr’s office & explained he checked my record saw I had never abused medicine & never a problem from random drug checks so said get to Hospital tell the Dr to call me & I will tell him what to give you & to be at office Monday morning. Upon getting to hospital & explaining what was going on between throwing up they said sit down, a long time later triage nurse finally called me back & acted & did everything but straight out call me a leirer & treated me so ugly which by then my cloths were wet sweat & could barely stand up then sent back to waiting room which was full but no big emergencies. They called people back to see Dr that registered after me I was in a ball & screaming in pain several persons went to window & begged the receptionest to take me back actually all in the waiting room asked that for me when I finally passed out they took me back. I heard as waking up a nurse say she is a addict some how I told Dr who to call & what had happened he immediately went to work on me called the Dr & proceeded to cuss the nurse, triage nurse, & receptionist & advised me to take legal action by then he had gave me something that helped so much I went to sleep. He admitted me to hospital & later that day when woke up he left emergency room & came to check on me. He said he was & he did send a letter detailing what had happened to me & that when I told triage nurse my Dr name & gave her the number she said we do not all & threw the paper back at me. The board of Directors were told & I never got a bill for… Read more »

Anthony Davais

Crystal, I feel your pain. This has happened to me also. I have been on Norco 10/325 and Ms Contin 30mg for six years. I am finally being weened off these opiodes. I am doing this very slowly, in fact I am in my third month of slowly decreasing my doses. I too have had your symptoms but not as severe. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 6 years ago. I have decided to get off the Narcotics and try Lyrica. I no longer want to be treated like a drug seeker. I hope and pray that Lyrica will be my life saver. While it is too early to tell I am keeping a positive attitude. Thank you for sharing your story.~T