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Stopping Omeprazole Provoked Unbearable Pain

Q. For years my doctor prescribed Prilosec and then Nexium for my reflux. He never mentioned anything about side effects and made it sound like a super-safe drug that I could take indefinitely.

I lost my insurance, so I switched to omeprazole that I buy over the counter. When I read the label it said not to take it for more than 14 days in a row. As soon as I stopped, the pain in my stomach was unbearable. I have to keep taking it. Is there any way to get off omeprazole without going through hell?

A. We have heard from many readers that stopping acid-suppressing drugs suddenly can cause terrible rebound heartburn. These drugs include esomeprazole (Nexium)
, lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec)
, pantoprazole (Protonix)
 and rabeprazole (Aciphex).

We are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders with tips on weaning yourself gradually from such medications along with many non-drug approaches to easing heartburn. Although many prescribers think of such drugs as perfectly safe for long-term use, there is growing concern that they may increase the risk of hip fracture (BMJ, online Jan. 31, 2012). Problems absorbing vitamin B12, iron and magnesium are also worrisome, and so is increased susceptibility to infections (Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Apr. 2011).

Persimmon-ginger tea, antacids, probiotics and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) can all be helpful during the withdrawal process.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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