5 Tips for Tapering Off of Opioids

(DGIwire) —  In light of recent reports surrounding some of the dangers of opioid addiction, anyone who has been prescribed opioids to treat their pain may be concerned. As the Mayo Clinic reports, although a patient may be eager to stop opioids altogether, the body needs time to adjust to lower levels of opioids and then to none at all. Below are some general tips for how the tapering process can be managed, but it is important to discuss an individualized plan with a qualified healthcare professional before attempting this:

  • Go slowly. A decrease of 10 percent of the original dose per week can be a reasonable starting point, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some patients who have taken opioids for a long time might find even slower tapers easier.
  • Adjust and monitor. The rate and duration of the taper should be adjusted according to the patient’s response, the CDC says. The rate may be slowed or paused while monitoring; once the smallest does is reached, the interval can be extended. Opioids can be stopped when taken less than once a day.
  • Consultation is key. A patient’s doctor should coordinate with specialists and treatment experts as needed while tapering, especially for patients at high risk of harm such as pregnant women or patients with an opioid use disorder, the CDC suggests.
  • Patients need support. The patient should receive appropriate psychosocial support during the tapering process, reports the CDC. Signs of anxiety, depression and opioid use disorder should be watched for during the tapering process and assistance should be provided as needed.
  • Encourage awareness of alternatives. “Patients apprehensive about discontinuing opioids for pain management should be made aware that work on novel, non-opioid pain treatment is thriving,” says Tony Mack, CEO of Virpax Pharmaceuticals.

Through Tony’s leadership, Virpax is studying the use of new transdermal and topical drug delivery systems to advance how patients and physicians are able to manage pain without opioids. For example, the company has licensed a patented aerosol-based system—which it has dubbed a “Patch-in-a-Can®”—that is designed to deliver non-opioids such as NSAIDs for the topical treatment of acute pain in a metered-dose spray.

“For those who have been prescribed opioids, tapering off their use is a vital part of overall pain management,” Mack adds. “But patients can’t do it by themselves. It is important for healthcare providers to take the time to work with each patient in the management of the tapering process.”

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