Is it possible to quit opioids and then go back to using them every once in a while? And without getting back to daily use or addiction?
These are common questions I receive, and this essay is entirely dedicated to answering these for you.
Let’s begin by discussing the reasons a person might have to quit opioids and still want to use them either recreationally, medicinally, or for performance enhancement.
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The Ultimate Life-Enhancement Resource
I’ve written about opioids being an ‘Ultimate Life-Enhancement Resource’ before.
Here’s what I mean by calling opioids this term:
At first, you got LOTS of ‘Benefits’ from taking opioids, and either none or hardly any ‘Negative Consequences’.
It was ‘True Bliss’ for you for a while.
You found a drug that helped you “Feel how you always wanted to feel.”
No more Anxiety.
No more Depression
No more Negative Emotions.
No More Physical or Emotional Pain.
Opioids made you feel ‘Superhuman’…
Like you could take on the day, take on the week, and take on the world.
They gave you so much Energy, Positivity, Confidence, and Relief of STRESS that opioids became your ‘Ultimate Resource’ for Making Life Easier and More Fun, with tons of Positive Emotions and a feeling of Invincibility.
But somewhere down the line, the Benefits began to Fade whereas the Negative Consequences started Rising.
And once the Negative Consequences became greater than the Positive Benefits, Opioid Use was no longer your ‘Ultimate Resource for Making You Better at Life’.
Instead, Opioid Use became what I call an “Exhausted Resource.”
This Ultimate Resource became exhausted, and it’s a natural desire to want to quit…
But then to still be able to use opioids responsibly, recreationally, medicinally, or for performance-enhancement…
And without getting re-addicted, thus getting the benefits without becoming a slave to addiction.
Is This Possible? Impossible? Implausible?
The truth is, once a person has become addicted to opioids, they usually spend years and years cycling between dependence, quitting, and relapsing back on opioids.
Some people hop onto Suboxone, Subutex, or methadone, and then get stuck on the medication for years or even a decade or longer.
Others are able to quit all opioids for months to a year or longer at a time, then think they can use opioids non-daily and thus not get re-addicted.
However, this almost always leads to re-addiction.
Some individuals can use infrequently for weeks or months without getting back to daily use, but eventually, nearly everyone falls back into opioid dependence.
There are some extremely rare ‘unicorns’ that can quit an opioid addiction and go back to non-daily, non-addictive ways of using opioids, but they are the exception…
Not the rule.
Should I Even Have this Goal?
My advice to all of my coaching clients who ask this question is simple. “Find other ways to feel good and make life better that don’t involve using opioids every once in a while.”
It takes some time, work, due diligence, persistence, discipline, focus, awareness, self-compassion, and patience, but it’s entirely possible and plausible that you can re-optimize your ‘natural neuro-chemical pharmacy’ in your brain.
When you achieve this, you’re able to feel energized, focused, confident, content and excited about life without using the opioid-crutch.
This is achieved by people every day, and it’s a wonderful goal achievement to shoot for.
I reached this state of not needing or wanting opioids to feel good a mere six weeks after I quit eight years ago.
What About Other Drugs & Alcohol?
For most people dependent on opioids who want to quit, the best goal is to never use opioids again.
But does that mean they shouldn’t also use other drugs (eg Valium, Adderall, alcohol) for the rest of their lives?
I certainly don’t go by that dogma, which states that after you’ve become an addict, you need to get ‘clean’ and abstain from ALL drugs and alcohol for literally the rest of your life, even if you’re only 22 years old.
While I don’t believe I’d be able to control my opioid consumption if someone gave me a huge suitcase full of 30 mg oxycodone pills, I know for a fact that I can take all other drugs (including Kratom) without the worry of getting addicted to them.
Everyone is different, and there is no ‘One Rule’ that applies to 100% of people.
However, in my experiences with corresponding with tens of thousands of people on opioids over the years, it seems crystal clear to me that most people addicted to opioids never succeed in getting back to non-daily use.
Best of luck to you, and thanks for reading this essay!
P.S. Leave a comment below with your thoughts on this subject. I’d love to hear from you!