Tapering opioids for patients with chronic non-cancer pain resource now available

12 Mar 2020

New resources to help taper patients off opioids are available as part of the NPS MedicineWise educational program Opioids, chronic pain and the bigger picture.

The new opioid tapering algorithm resource was designed to help step doctors through the process of preparing a successful tapering plan with their patients who have chronic non-cancer pain.

The five steps used by the algorithm to taper opioids in this patient group are described on the NPS website here, and include:

  • Step 1. Explore the patient’s expectations and concerns. Reassure them that they will be supported through the tapering process.
  • Step 2. Review the patient’s goals and pain management plan. Goals should not only be personally relevant but specific, achievable and measurable.
  • Step 3. Develop a tapering plan and monitor regularly. Preferably, the tapering rate should be slow enough to minimise symptoms and signs of opioid withdrawal.
  • Step 4. Expect some withdrawal symptoms. Work with the patient to manage the symptoms, even if this means pausing to review the tapering plan.
  • Step 5. If in doubt, seek support. Tapering is challenging, and patients will often want to give up when they experience challenges. Consider seeking multidisciplinary advice or support for patients who are having difficulty with tapering.

The NPS MedicineWise opioid tapering algorithm can also be downloaded from the AMA GP Practice Support Toolkit.