Nationally published guidelines state that many patients prescribed chronic opioids would benefit from gradually reducing and/or eliminating their use of these medications. This is easier said than done. Patients are often resistant or fearful, physicians are often uncomfortable prescribing an opioid taper, and patients often do not get the needed behavioral health support in this process. It is critical to develop a comprehensive behavioral and medical plan, however the field lacks practical approaches to guide physicians (and patients) through this challenge. In this manuscript our team of primary care providers and behaviorists walk through a case involving complex opioid weaning in a Family Medicine residency clinic environment. Through the lens of our patient's case, we will discuss best practices for getting patient buy-in, opioid weaning strategies, behavioral support during the wean, identifying co-morbid opioid use disorders, and deciding on acceptable end points for the taper.
Keywords: behavioral support; chronic pain; harm reduction; opioid deprescribing; opioid use disorder; pain management.