A new study out this month shows that doctors are increasingly tapering their patients off powerful opioid medications, perhaps so fast that they are putting them at risk. Results of the study, “Trends and Rapidity of Dose Tapering Among Patients Prescribed Long-term Opioid Therapy, 2008-2017,” were published by the journal JAMA on November 15.
“We wanted to understand how often opioid dose tapering happens, how rapidly patients’ doses were being reduced when tapering, and which patients were more likely to have doses tapered,” said lead author Joshua Fenton, a professor of family and community medicine.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines on the prescribing of opioid medications in response to the continuing rash of overdoses and deaths that has plagued the country for more than two decades. The guidelines suggested that patients be slowly weaned off opioid medications by reducing the dosage at a rate of ten percent per week or less.
However, some doctors and hospitals have been reducing some patients’ doses more aggressively than federal guidelines, by as much as 15% or more for one-fifth of the patients in the study. In 2008, only 10.5% were being tapered off of opioids