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HHS Releases Opioid Discontinuation Guidelines

October 15, 2019

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a guide for clinicians detailing the discontinuation of long-term opioid analgesics.1

“Compiled from published guidelines and practices endorsed in the peer-reviewed literature, the Guide covers important issues to consider when changing a patient’s chronic pain therapy. It lists issues to consider prior to making a change, which include shared decision-making with the patient; issues to consider when initiating the change; and issues to consider as a patient’s dosage is being tapered, including the need to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal and provide behavioral health support,” the HHS wrote in an accompanying press release.2

Issues detailed in the guidelines include:

  • Risks of rapid tapering
  • Considerations and steps to take prior to tapering
  • Individualizing taper rates
  • Opioid Use Disorder
  • Treatment of opioid withdrawal

“Care must be a patient-centered experience. We need to treat people with compassion, and emphasize personalized care tailored to the specific circumstances and unique needs of each patient.  This Guide provides more resources for clinicians to best help patients achieve the dual goals of effective pain management and reduction in the risk for addiction,” said Adm. Brett P. Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health.2

—Michael Potts


  1. Dowell D, Jones C, Compton W. HHS guide for clinicians on the appropriate dosage reduction or discontinuation of long-term opioid analgesics. September 2019. Accessed October 11, 2019.
  2. HHS announces guide for appropriate tapering or discontinuation of long-term opioid use [press release]. Washington, D.C. October 10, 2019.
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