If I’m Prescribed Opioids, How Soon Can I Stop Them?

The Short Answer from a pain management specialist

Q: If I have to take opioids, how soon can I get off them?

A: We try to prescribe opioids only when absolutely necessary — for example, for recovery from surgery or severe injury — and only for the briefest period of time. In fact, states like Ohio will soon mandate that health professionals prescribe painkillers for no more than seven days for adults and no more than five days for children and teens.

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That’s because a new study shows that after just eight days of opioid use, the risk of long-term use is 13.5 percent. And after one month, that risk more than doubles to 29.9 percent.

The new limits will apply only to those experiencing acute pain. Patients with long-term cancer pain or in hospice care won’t be affected.

Nearly 80 percent of those now using heroin started after being on a prescription opioid. So we must be extremely careful when prescribing opioids for pain.

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— Richard W. Rosenquist, MD, Chairman, Pain Management

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