Do I Really Need a Doctor’s Supervision While I’m Tapering Off Opioids?

In most cases, it is much safer to be under a doctor’s care or supervision while tapering off your opioid dosage.

The Dangers of Opioid Withdrawal

Someone who has become dependent on opioids, especially as the result of drug abuse, should seek help when attempting to detox from the drug. It is extremely dangerous to practice complete and sudden withdrawal or what is often known as going cold turkey. But even if you are attempting to slowly taper off your opioid use, this should be done with help of a doctor.

The National Library of Medicine states the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are “not life-threatening.” Still, certain aspects of the syndrome can be extremely dangerous.

Tapering Off Opioids

Without medical supervision, withdrawal symptoms make relapse almost inevitable.

  • The pain individuals experience during opioid withdrawal can be very intense, which is often extremely difficult to bear for a population not accustomed to physical pain (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). This type of pain, even when managed with tapering, can be severe and cause individuals to relapse back to opioid abuse.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and profuse sweating are all common symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Together, they can largely increase one’s likelihood of becoming dehydrated. This is a real danger associated with the syndrome itself.
  • Overdose deaths are most common among individuals who are detoxing or who have just detoxed. This is because, according to the NLM, a person’s tolerance diminishes during detox, but the risk for relapse is still great. As a result, many individuals relapse and abuse the same amount of the drug as they used to, leading them to overdose.

Opioid withdrawal, though not life-threatening in the way some other withdrawal syndromes are, can be incredibly dangerous and should be treated with a tapering system or maintenance. Still, even if you believe you have the ability to taper off the drug yourself, you should have a doctor’s help in doing so.

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Tapering Your Opioid Use with a Doctor’s Help

The dangers associated with withdrawal strongly point toward one’s need to seek help during the tapering process, but there are other reasons why getting a medical professional’s supervision is necessary to your safe recovery.

  • Many times, individuals who are struggling with addiction have trouble putting an end to their substance abuse on their own. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge and addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.” In general, those who have become addicted to opioids should not count solely on their own self-control in order to safely put an end to their substance abuse.
  • Tapering off opioids is a difficult practice and can be very dangerous. As stated above, one increases their chances of a deadly overdose during detox, and attempting to choose their own doses is putting them even more at risk. The use of opioids is meant to be based on a doctor’s prescriptions for a reason, and though a person may have been using opioids at their own discretion before, recovery is the time to ask for help.
  • In order to overcome an opioid addiction, addicts will need to do more than slowly taper off their dosages. Behavioral therapy, support groups, and a number of other treatment options are often necessary as well, and having a doctor’s supervision during even the most initial phases of recovery will help ensure that you have someone to guide you through every part of the process.

It is much safer and more effective to have a doctor’s supervision while tapering off your opioid dosage. Though many addicts are afraid of this option, it is important to remember that it is the best choice for one’s overall treatment and it will help build a stronger recovery in the long run.

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