New Recommendations For Tapering Off Opioids

Eminem released his album "Relapse" in 2009; "Recovery" followed in 2010. In that second album, he details his addiction to prescription opioids: 10 to 20 Vicodin a day, as well as Xanax and Valium. But he is one of the lucky ones. In April of this year, he was 11 years sober.

For many folks, there's a different ending: Around 1.7 million Americans have a diagnosable addiction to prescription opioids such as hydrocodone. A lot of folks take these medications to treat chronic pain (it afflicts 50 million Americans), and 8% to 12% develop a life-changing dependency.

But if you're taking opioids and want to reduce or stop your use of them, that can be tricky business. That's why Health & Human Services has issued guidelines for tapering off opioids that they say are effective and will cause the user the least distress and physical or psychological harm. (Google: "HHS Guide for Clinicians on the Appropriate Dosage Reduction or Discontinuation of Long-Term Opioid Analgesics.")

The basics are:

- Slow tapering (those who have been taking the medication for 1+ years): Reduce intake by 10% or less a month over months or years depending on starting dose.

- Fast tapering (those who have been taking the medication for weeks or months): Reduce dose by 10% to 20% every week, until 30% of the original dose is reached. Then decrease by 10% of the remaining dose weekly.

Don't do this alone: Work with your doctor and pain management specialist to protect yourself from unmanaged withdrawal symptoms and dangerous relapse.

© 2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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