Tips for Discontinuing Long Term Opioid Use Safely


For those who may be unaware, recent studies show that over 2 million people in America admit to having an opioid disorder. And for many people, their problem with opioids resulted from taking the medication to treat pain associated with a legitimate health problem. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued recommendations designed to help long-term users successfully taper off of opioids and eventually find new ways to manage chronic pain. These recommendations were aimed primarily at individuals struggling with serious health problems that are often made worse by chronic pain, such as cancer or end-stage renal disease.

What Is the Safest Way to Taper Off of Opioids?

One of the recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is for long-term opioid users to avoid quitting the medication cold turkey as doing so can trigger severe withdrawal symptoms, some of which include nausea, vomiting, body aches, tremors, fever, diarrhea, and profuse sweating. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends non-opioid treatments, such as group or 1 on 1 physical therapy sessions, to help with pain management and to also seek help from a mental health professional if they are experiencing psychological symptoms as a result of coming off of the medication. Lastly, those who have been engaging in long term opioid use are advised to follow their physician's advice on titrating down their dosage until they are off of the medication completely.

Is Physical Therapy an Effective Form of Pain Management?

Although physical therapy is often thought of in the context of recovering from an injury or surgery, it is also an effective way to treat pain. In many cases, the exercises and hands-on care provided by a licensed therapist can do a great job when it comes to alleviating even the most debilitating pain symptoms. However, it is worth noting that everyone responds to this form of treatment differently. As such, most physical therapists will work collaboratively with physicians and mental health professionals to come up with a treatment plan that best meets the unique needs of the patients in their care. This approach is especially beneficial for patients who have a history of long term opioid use.

The Bottom Line

Although physical therapy and other non-opioid treatments may not be ideal in all situations, they have proven to be effective for some individuals. As such, they are strongly recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as most physicians and physical therapists.</p>

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