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Tapering Opioid Use Safely

How do I stop taking opioid medications safely? 

If you have been taking opioid medications for an extended period, it is generally not safe to stop them suddenly. Abruptly discontinuing opioids after the body has become physically dependent on them can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. Instead, your doctor will likely recommend a gradual tapering process to allow your body to adjust to having less of the medication over time. 

What is a tapering or withdrawal plan? 

A tapering or withdrawal plan is a structured schedule that outlines how to safely reduce your opioid dose over the course of several weeks or months. Your doctor will create this personalized plan based on factors like how long you’ve been taking the medication and at what dosage. The plan will specify the smaller and smaller amounts you should take each day or week until you are completely off the opioids. 

How do I avoid symptoms of withdrawal? 

Carefully following your tapering plan is crucial to minimizing withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can cause restlessness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, rapid heart rate, and other unpleasant effects. Sticking to the prescribed dose reductions will help your body adjust gradually and avoid these difficult withdrawal experiences. 

Where can I find additional support to taper my opioid medications? 

If you are finding it challenging to taper your opioid use, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor for additional support. They may recommend counseling, joining a support group, or even using medications designed to ease opioid withdrawal. Having this extra support can make a big difference as you work to safely discontinue long-term opioid use.

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