What You Need To Know About Tapering Off Opioids

Posted on: 10 October 2018

If you've experienced an injury or undergone surgery, your doctor may have prescribed opioid pain medications to help you get through the pain. Opioid medications are strong and potentially addictive, but very effective at relieving acute, short-term pain. Unfortunately, if you end up relying on opioid pain medications for more than a few weeks, you could start to develop a dependence on them, and you may experience unpleasant withdrawal effects when you try to quit using them. Take a look at what you need to know about tapering yourself off of the medication gradually.

Know the Signs of Dependence

In addition to the length of time that you've been taking opioid pain medication, there are other signs you can look for that can help indicate whether or not you're becoming dependent on the pills. For example, if you notice that your prescribed dosage no longer has the same effect that it used to, or if you experience side effects while taking the medication.

There are also certain behaviors that can indicate that you may not be using opioids in a healthy manner. If you find yourself taking more pills than your doctor prescribed, hoarding medication, or combining medication with alcohol or other drugs, for example, you should see your doctor about tapering off of the medication.

Don't Attempt to Go Cold Turkey

Your instinct may be to simply throw the pills away and stop using them all at once. But if you've begun to build a dependence on pain pills, this is a bad idea. The symptoms of withdrawal are not only unpleasant to experience, they could be dangerous. Some of the symptoms of opioid withdrawal include a rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure, both of which can be harmful to your health.

The longer you've taken the opioids, and the stronger the prescription is, the more difficult withdrawal is likely to be. However, these aren't the only factors to consider. Underlying medical conditions or co-occurring mental health issues, like depression, can also complicate your withdrawal. The safest way to stop using opioids is to consult a doctor and make a plan to wean yourself off of the medication gradually.

Give Your Body Time to Adjust

It's impossible to say how long it should take you to taper off opioids. Everybody is different, and each person's tapering plan should be tailored to meet their individual needs.

You can expect your doctor to monitor your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature during the time that you're tapering to make sure that you aren't experiencing detrimental effects. Your doctor may take blood and urine samples to confirm that the levels of opioids in your system are decreasing as they should. You may still experience some withdrawal symptoms while you're on a tapering plan. You shouldn't take more medication than your plan allows, even if you experience symptoms. Talk to your doctor about alternative pain therapies and medications that can help you manage withdrawal symptoms instead.

Dependence on pain pills can be challenging, but you can succeed in safely weaning yourself off the medication. Don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor for help – the sooner you start tapering off, the sooner you can be opioid-free. Contact a center like Trenton Healthcare for more help.