Tapering Off Opioids

When you’re trying to quit drugs, you already know that you have a long road ahead of you. Any addictive substance is difficult to wean yourself off from (from sugar all the way to hard drugs), but you’re doing the right thing. 

Tens of thousands of people per year pass away from opioid misuse. You’re taking the right first step toward changing your future and not becoming a statistic. 

You shouldn’t quit cold-turkey, especially if you’re not being watched by a medical professional, so how can you taper off opioids? Whether you’re trying to slow down before getting into addiction treatment or you’ve committed to getting rid of drugs entirely, we’re here to help. 

Keep reading to learn all about how to stop taking opioids as safely as possible.

Know When to Start Tapering

Most people who take opioids are taking them because of a doctor’s prescription. Because they’re addictive, though, many people take them for too long. This leads to misuse and addiction. 

It’s hard to tell when it’s time to start tapering off your opioids. When you’re dependent on them, you don’t always notice it. Start paying attention to your pain and how you feel both on and off of your opioid medication.

Short-term opioid use for people who aren’t prone to addiction is generally safe. When you take your normal dosage of opioids for a set period of time (from a few days to a few weeks) you shouldn’t need to taper off. 

Longer than that, though, you may start to notice side-effects. This is when you know that you need to taper.

If you’ve discovered that your normal dose of opioids is no longer providing pain relief, this means that you’re building a tolerance to them.

Similarly, if you’ve found yourself “craving” more of your medication even when you don’t experience a lot of pain, you may be recognizing the first symptoms of addiction or dependence. 

Talk to Your Doctor

Once you’ve decided that it’s time to cut back on your opioid medications, talk to your doctor. They can develop a plan to help you taper off of your medications safely with few adverse effects. 

You won’t go immediately from a normal dosage to no medication at all. This puts a lot of stress on the body and it can backfire. Instead, your doctor will lower the dosage step-by-step and monitor your progress. 

They may perform tests or develop treatment plans for you, like blood pressure monitoring, blood samples, mental health treatment, or alternative pain management. 

Having a professional on your side makes the process safe and easier. 

Anticipate Withdrawal When You Quit Drugs

Even when you’re tapering with medical supervision, there will still be withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help with the withdrawal (like sleeping medications, non-opioid pain relief, or medication to help with your mental state), but you will likely still feel something.

Withdrawal symptoms from opioids include:

  • Flu symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Mood changes
  • Disrupted sleep
  • A spike or drop in blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts

While these are all considered “minor” withdrawal symptoms, you should still talk to your doctor if you experience them to a point that it interferes with your life. 

If your symptoms increase in severity, it may be because you’re trying to taper off of your medication too fast. In that case, talk to your doctor about revising your treatment plan or seeking out other methods of pain management and mental health care while you’re struggling. 

Take Care of Yourself

This is a hard process. You can’t successfully taper off drugs if you’re not also taking care of your mind and body. 

Find yourself a support group. This can be an official group (like meetings for people who misuse opioids), or it can include support from your friends and family. Having proper support is everything when it comes to a successful drug taper. 

It’s also a good idea to engage in physical self-care. While you may not feel up to it, try to do light to moderate exercises like walking, yoga, or pilates. Try to keep more hydrated than normal and make sure that you’re eating well. Keep up with hobbies or calming activities to keep your mind off of withdrawal symptoms. 

Keeping yourself healthy and happy will make the process smooth and easy. 

Know When to Find Help 

There may come a point that you realize that you’re not succeeding with the tapering process. There’s nothing wrong with you and it’s okay to need more help. 

Talk to your doctor about your options. They may suggest professional substance abuse counseling or addiction treatment while you’re going through drug tapering. While this won’t get rid of the discomfort, it will help you get over the mental hurdles associated with withdrawal. 

If this isn’t enough, they may also suggest a professional detox and rehabilitation program. These programs give you full-time care and support so you don’t have to rely on your own self-control. They’ll make sure that you keep yourself healthy during the tapering process. 

You Can Start Tapering Off Opioids Today

You know when it’s time to quit drugs. Talk to your doctor about tapering off of your opioids (whether they’re prescription medications or not; there’s no shame in getting help) so you can start a safe and smooth transition into sobriety. 

This is a difficult process, but with enough support and determination, you’ll be free of addictive drugs in no time. 

Are you in need of a professional and supportive detox or addiction treatment program to help you quit your opioid dependence? At New Leaf detox and treatment center, we offer a patient-first approach to care. 

Contact us to get in touch with one of our compassionate care professionals so we can help you start your path towards healing today.