Yes, according to the National Library of Medicine’s Medline service, it is both safer and more effective to taper off opiates. Many people who taper off opiates are more successful at recovery and avoid relapse. This is usually due to the tapering, it reduces both the physical and mental need for the drug and prevents full withdrawal. Although not deadly withdrawal from opiates is extremely unpleasant. Most people who choose to stop taking them choose a tapering method. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this method.
What does Tapering off Opiates mean?
When you taper off any drug, you slowly reduce the amount that you are taking until you are no longer taking any. This is one of the best ways to avoid withdrawal symptoms. When you taper you start at a high dose and then at a set time you reduce the dose down a small amount. Most of the time your body does not realize it is getting less of the drug. If you go into withdrawal, the withdrawal is usually less than what it would be if you did not taper.
Benefits of Tapering
Most doctors will tell you there are many benefits of tapering, but the primary benefit is not going through severe withdrawal. Tapering:
- reduces your need for the drug,
- helps avoid relapse,
- gives you time to develop other habits,
- keeps you from intense craving,
- helps avoid most withdrawal symptoms, and
- still treats the condition that you started using opiates for while you find another solution.
These benefits are not the only ones. Doctors often use an opiate replacement medication and then taper the person off it until they no longer need either the original opiate or the replacement. This is the preferred way to detox from opiates.
Drawbacks of Tapering
The drawbacks of tapering are less obvious than the benefits. Although many people have a good deal of success, tapering with a doctor’s care it is not an easy thing to do. Some of the drawbacks of tapering are:
- tapering is difficult to do. Many people are unable to taper off a drug without someone controlling their access to it. They take more than the tapered amount either out of habit or out of desperation.
- It does not always work. Sometimes reducing the medication does not reduce the symptoms. This is relatively rare but it does happen.
- does not always stop the psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Most people still experience depression and some anxiety while tapering.
- it takes time. Some tapering schedules take weeks if not months. Many people get frustrated with slow tapering.
- sometimes there are breakthrough withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes when the tapering schedule is not correct, you might experience withdrawal symptoms.
- some people overdose by taking all of their prescribed tapering medications.
- it does not treat the cause of the addiction, you will still need counseling for that.
Most people see some success regardless of these drawbacks. It is easier to taper with a doctor’s help.
What Happens when you taper off with a Doctor’s Care?
In an inpatient or outpatient rehab, doctors often choose tapering. Tapering is a lot easier to do in a supportive closed or semi closed environment. The first thing that doctors do when you are in a clinical setting and are considering tapering is assess your needs.
They decide either to keep you on the medication you are addicted to or to give you a replacement medication. They will try to find the right dose. This takes time and requires patience. Depending on the situation, they might have you come back to the hospital daily or they might prescribe a specific amount of the medication. Doctors have you come back daily when you have a severe addiction and are likely to take more than the amount they prescribe.
Doctors set up a schedule that they prescribe or give you the drugs on. The amount could change weekly or every two weeks. It depends on how well you tolerate the tapering and the replacement medication.
Things to Think about before Tapering
When you start a tapering schedule, you should plan how you are going to taper off the medication. If you are doing it on your own this is a difficult thing to do. It is easier to use a doctor to help you.
Although you might not, there is a good chance that you will feel some of the effects of withdrawal as you taper. This is not unusual and there are over the counter medications and exercises that you can do to help with the breakthrough symptoms.
You have to find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Some people run into trouble tapering off a medication by themselves. This is usually due to relapse and overdose. When a relapse happens, go back to the tapering schedule or seek the help of a qualified addiction specialist.
There are many reasons to taper off an opiate. Once you make the decision to leave opiates behind, you can get on with your life. According to the New York Times, new drugs and treatments for addiction come out all the time but tapering is a proven method that works for a variety of people.
It is almost always better when a doctor or healthcare practitioner helps you taper off the opiates. If you want to try tapering off an opiate and need help, call us at 800-584-3274.