Tapering a Patient’s Opioid Dosage? Follow This Guide
By David Doolittle

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In an effort to curb the nationwide opioid epidemic while keeping patients from excessive pain, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week published a guide for physicians considering or initiating a reduction in opioid dosage.

The Guide for Clinicians on the Appropriate Dosage Reduction or Discontinuation of Long-Term Opioid Analgesics “provides more resources for clinicians to best help patients achieve the dual goals of effective pain management and reduction in the risk for addiction,” Adm. Brett P. Giroir, MD, the assistant secretary for health, said in a statement.

The guide covers important issues to consider when changing a patient’s chronic pain therapy, including:

  • Shared decision-making with the patient;
  • Initiating the change; and
  • Tapering dosage, including the need to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal and provide behavioral health support.

In Texas, opioid-related deaths have increased from 291 in 1990 to 1,174 in 2015, the last year for which information is available, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

The epidemic, and how Texas physicians can fight it, were the subject of a three-physician panel at last month’s 2019 Texas Medical Association Fall Conference. The discussion touched on new laws approved this year tied to opioid prescription; best practices, including having patients sign a controlled-substance agreement; and how to watch for red flags.

You can find more information on electronic prescribing at TMA’s online prescribing resource center, or by contacting the TMA Health Information Technology Department at (800) 880-5720 or by email.

You also can contact the TMA Knowledge Center via emailor at (800) 880-7955 with more questions. 

Last Updated On

October 18, 2019

David Doolittle

Editor

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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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