Can You Taper Down From Opiates?

Quitting opiates suddenly, or going cold turkey, even after just a few days of continuous use, can produce painful withdrawal symptoms. Tapering down or entering medical detox programs are the only two sensible options.

There is and has been a national crisis of opioid abuse in our country. Opiates are prescribed painkillers, synthetic opiates, and illegal drugs such as Codeine, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Methadone, Morphine, and Oxycodone. Some of these are prescribed daily for pain, acute and/or chronic. Many people who are prescribed painkillers abuse them. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIH),

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opiates for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opiates transition to heroin.
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opiates.
  • Opiate overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.

Doctors Can Manage an Opioid Taper Protocol

Your doctor may prescribe opiates to help you get through a few days of severe pain after a surgery or a traumatic injury. Opiate medications also play an important role in treating cancer-related pain and, rarely, chronic, non-cancer pain when other treatments haven’t worked.

Can You Taper Down From Opiates?

When it is Safe to Stop Taking Opiates

If you’ve taken opiates for less than two weeks, you should be able to simply stop these medications as soon as your prescribed course of pills runs out, if not before. If you’ve taken opioid medications for more than two weeks, you may need to stop using these medications as soon as possible to prevent serious consequences. Common signs that it’s time to get off opioids include serious side effects, reduced pain relief from the same dose of medications over time also known as tolerance, or behaviors that raise concerns about misuse, abuse, or addiction.

If you find yourself having any of these signs it can be alarming and freighting especially if you’ve never had this happen before. When we get prescribed painkillers there are usually only so many refills before the prescription is out. At this point the user, if dependent, finds ways of getting more. Sometimes, because it is cheaper than the prescription painkiller, resorts to heroin or fentanyl.

Going Cold Turkey With Opiates

Quitting opiates suddenly, or going cold turkey, even after as little as 2-10 days of continuous use, will produce withdrawal symptoms that may cause mental and emotional distress, increased pain, increased risk for suicide, and unmanageable withdrawal symptoms that may lead to relapse.

If you notice you are becoming dependent on opiates, you’ll want to see if you can start weaning yourself off. This involves providing gradually decreasing doses of an opioid to reduce withdrawal symptoms and increase a person’s safety through the detox process.

Weaning off opiates can be done in a couple of different ways, inpatient and outpatient treatment. 

Weaning off opiates can be difficult to do without medical assistance. When medical professional works with a patient to wean them off prescription opiates, an individualized schedule should be created to manage withdrawal symptoms following a complete physical assessment, lab tests, and interview. How quickly the medication is weaned off of depends on several factors, including how long you have been taking opiates, the dose you have been taking, and which opiate and other medications or substances you have been using.

On Call Treatment Can Help With Opioid Dependence

If you or a loved one think they may be addicted to opiates and want to be free of the drug, On Call Treatment Center can help. On-Call Treatment Center is an addiction treatment program located in the heart of Waltham, Massachusetts. Our carefully developed program of quality clinical care includes Partial Hospitalization (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient (IOP) levels of care. Our medical, clinical and therapeutic team of experienced and compassionate professionals is available around-the-clock to treat all symptoms associated with addiction as well as the underlying causes. Our program of recovery is ideal for individuals who are ready for world-class addiction treatment who have been suffering from a substance use disorder.