Guidance for Clinicians on the Tapering and Discontinuation of Opioids

Last Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Opioid-Prescription-articleGuidance released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Oct. 10, 2019 offers information for clinicians on the appropriate tapering or discontinuation of long-term opioid use.

“Unless there are indications of a life-threatening issue, such as warning signs of impending overdose, HHS does not recommend abrupt opioid dose reduction or discontinuation,” the guide says.

According to HHS, the risks of rapid opioid tapering include acute withdrawal symptoms, exacerbation of pain, and serious psychological distress. Patients experiencing withdrawal may seek out other sources of opioids, including illicit drugs.

The opioid tapering guide offers information on:

  • When to consider tapering or discontinuation of long-term opioid therapy
  • Important steps prior to initiating a taper
  • Sharing decision making with the patient
  • How to individualize the taper rate
  • Treating withdrawal symptoms
  • Providing behavioral health support

Get the Guide

Related Resources

You can find links to all 12 of the Pennsylvania’s voluntary opioid prescribing guidelines – developed by the state and key stakeholders – at

And, check out the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED) CME courses that can help you meet Pennsylvania licensure requirements for education in pain management, identification of addiction, or safe opioid prescribing in our CME catalog here.

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