Opioid Epidemic

CDC Guidelines for Tapering Opioids


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published "Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain" in 2016. These guidelines are provided for primary care clinicians treating people with chronic pain. The CDC states that the intent of the publication is to improve communication between individuals and clinicians regarding the risks versus the benefits of opioid use as a chronic pain treatment, as well as to help reduce the number of opioid overdoses and deaths.

The CDC guidelines for safely tapering opioids include the following:

Tapering off medications, especially pain medications, should be individualized. Those who have taken opioids for a short time can decrease doses by ten percent per week, while long-term users of opioids may have to taper at a much slower pace by decreasing the dosage at no more than ten percent per month. Slowly tapering off opioids reduces withdrawal symptoms.

Individuals should be aware that there is an increased risk of overdose if they suddenly return to their original opioid dosage during the tapering process. Extra precautions are imperative for individuals who are tapering off opioids during pregnancy. Withdrawal symptoms can harm the expecting mother, as well as the fetus.

Communication between the individual tapering off opioids and their health care provider is important. The individual should be able to talk with the doctor as much as needed and share any concerns and needs.

Emotional support is imperative during opioid tapering. Individuals need to rely on support from trusted family and friends and/or obtain a referral to a mental health care provider.

Individuals should be aware that although pain may worsen when beginning the tapering process, it can get better after opioid use is completely discontinued. A taper should not be reversed; however, it can be slowed down if needed.

Once the lowest dose is attained, the length of time between doses should be extended.

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