In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted in 2013 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some 24.6 million Americans, age 12 and older, admitted using an illicit drug at least once in the month prior to the survey. This snapshot survey seems to suggest that many Americans consider drug use a fact of everyday life.

If you are one of these people, weaning off drugs could help you to get the clarity and sobriety you need. These are the steps you will need to take in order to make it happen.

taper off drugs

NOTE: If you have been abusing opiates, alcohol, or benzodiazepines, you should not attempt to wean off these substances on your own, as withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening; medical detox is required.

  1. Look at your peers. When people think about peer pressure, they often think about children and young adults. While it is true, as the Australian Government Department of Health puts it, that any teen can be pressured to do things with enough prompting from peers, the same problems can happen with adults. That is especially true when there is a history of drug abuse to consider. Former drug pals, drug dealers, and even family members can all pressure those trying to get sober to take one more hit or do one more line. That nudging could end a weaning plan before it begins. You can avoid this issue by steering clear of using peers during this process.
  1. Create a schedule. Before you can begin to wean from drugs, you will need to know how much you take right now. Write down your current doses of the drugs you take, and create a safe taper schedule in which you take just a little bit less every day. Do not get drastic with your cuts. Instead, think about turning off your supply very, very slowly. Small reductions will be easier for you to tolerate, when compared to big shifts. Those small reductions will add up to big changes in time.

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  1. Get help to controlling doses It is hard to wean off drugs when large quantities of substances are sitting out in the open just waiting to be used. You can get past this issue by keeping supplies of drugs or alcohol in a locked cabinet. Ideally, you will give the key to that cabinet to a trusted person who will help to control the doses. That way, it will be hard or impossible for you to binge. The person with the key will help you to stick to your original plan.
  1. Track the changes. As your taper progresses, keep notes about how you are feeling. Notice how your senses are more acute, or keep track of how much more energy you have at the end of the day. Write down how much money you are saving, and track how many hours you are able to work. These notes can help you to stay motivated, even when you feel discouraged.
  1. Seek out support. Even though a taper should move very slowly, it might be difficult for you to stick with your plans. You might feel isolated, and you might feel as though you are the only person who has dealt with the pain you feel. These thoughts can become so strong and negative that they tempt you to relapse. Fight back by talking with a peer who has gone through the same process. If you do not have any close friends or family members with this experience, seek out a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
  1. Work through cravings. As your drug use wanes, your body and brain may call out for drugs. Work through cravings by:
    • Drinking a cool glass of water
    • Taking a brisk walk
    • Sitting in a warm or cool bath
    • Eating a bite of something sweet or salty
    • Talking with a friend
    • Sitting quietly or meditating
  1. Get extra help. Addiction issues do not come about due to issues of willpower. They are diseases that, according to Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, impair the brain’s structure and function. They can impair a person’s ability to control behavior and make good choices. If the taper process proves too stressful or difficult for you, be forgiving. Seek out a treatment program that can help.

A taper could be an excellent way for you to cut back on drugs, and it might even be a process you use in order to get sober. By following these steps, you could make it happen. If you can’t, remember that there are treatment programs that can help. Do not be afraid to seek them out.

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