Is Weaning off Opiates Safe?

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The process of weaning off opiates is very difficult. It involves taking less and less of the drug until a person is taking next to nothing. This is to hopefully lessen the withdrawal symptoms or skip withdrawal all together. Since opiate withdrawal is unpleasant but not typically deadly, it is possible to do this with little or no supervision. Weaning off opiates is safe if done correctly. Remember that coming off opiates takes approximately two weeks. There are three primary ways of safely weaning off opiates. Each way comes with its own problems and complications.

Weaning off by yourself

One benefit of weaning off opiates is that it is private or between you and possibly a friend. This can be both a good and bad thing. In one way, it maintains your privacy regardless and another it means that you do not have the support that you may need to conquer your addiction. Weaning off opiates alone requires some preparation. Most people prepare by stocking up on the necessary things and then planning exactly how they are going to reduce the drug. Some of the necessary things are:

  • sleeping pills for the insomnia,
  • replacement drugs such as Xanax or Valium, to help with the anxiety,
  • an antiemetic for the nausea and vomiting,
  • a medication for the diarrhea,
  • plenty of food and water,
  • a comfortable place to be,
  • blankets and a fan for temperature adjustments, and
  • a friend or family member to help when it gets bad,

This is one of the hardest ways to get off opiates. It requires a tremendous will and desire to be clean. In addition, this way most likely leads to relapse. One of the problems with weaning off by yourself, is that the drug is always available and taking more than the predetermined weaning amount is very tempting, particularly when the worst of the withdrawal sets in.

Weaning off with a doctor’s care

doctors care opiates

A doctor’s supervision can be a helpful tool in recovery.

Weaning off the opiate under a doctor’s care is not as difficult as weaning off the drug on your own. It involves speaking with your doctor, who can help either wean you off or refer you to someone who can. They have access to medications like Suboxone and Methadone for easier weaning and pain control. These medications are both partial opiate agonists, which replace the opiates. These drugs do not produce the high that full opiates do. They are extremely helpful in weaning off without withdraw. The doctor also might just reduce the dose of the addictive opiate gradually.

There are a few problems with weaning off an opiate with a doctor’s care. The first problem is that there will be a medical record of it. This means that in the medical files at least your drug use will be written down. Unfortunately, even with privacy laws, other doctors will know and treat you as an addict. This does not seem like an issue at first but when you legitimately need an opiate painkiller, it can be difficult.

Another issue with using a doctor’s help to wean off an opiate, is that the medications he or she usually puts someone on are addictive themselves. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methadone is addictive but a safe way to treat opiate addiction. It is one of the more commonly used drugs but does require tapering itself. It is usually used to treat the stronger addictions and people who have tried to stop opiates on their own. In this method, the patient is weaned off on an outpatient basis. This means that they go to a clinic or their doctor every day, week, or month depending on their tapering schedule.

Weaning off with a rehab facility

Weaning off in a rehab facility is another option for scaling down and avoiding withdrawal symptoms. Finding a rehab facility that allows weaning off opiates might be difficult, but it is worth the search. Many rehabs offer a variety of treatment options including treatment with buprenorphine, a medication that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration believes is a safe alternative to methadone. They also have counseling, behavioral therapy, and other services available. It is a safe place for you to be while you are going through the opiate withdrawal. Some people who are quitting opiates also need 24-hour support. Most rehabs have staff available for counseling all day and all night for those who need it.

Since most rehabs are inpatient programs, taking off work is necessary. In addition, there are the same privacy concerns that are associated with using a doctor’s help. Even though it is considered private information, it can stop doctors from prescribing you pain medication in the future.

Regardless of the method, weaning off opiates is generally safe but unpleasant. It takes a lot of will and determination to stop an opiate addiction. Weaning off an opiate is generally more pleasant than stopping suddenly. Most people who try to wean off are able to do so in one to four weeks. No matter what method is used weaning off opiates is a process. It takes time to come completely off the drugs. Have patience, take your time, and select the method is right for you. If one does not work, have a conversation with your doctor and try a different one. Weaning off opiates is safe using one of these methods.


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