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Stopping pain and sedation medicines


Your child might need medicines to control pain and anxiety or help them sleep. Some of these medicines are very powerful. If your child took them for 5 days or longer, they must be “weaned off the medicine.” This means your child is given a lower dose each day over several days until the medicine is stopped.

If your child stops taking the medicine suddenly, they could have withdrawal symptoms. This means getting sick from going without the medicine. Withdrawal symptoms can include shaking, sweating, and vomiting or feeling nauseated (sick to your stomach).

How St. Jude starts the process

Your child’s St. Jude nurses use a list called the “Withdrawal Assessment Tool 1,” or WAT-1, to check for withdrawal symptoms. Watching them use this will help you learn what to check for at home. Nurses start checking your child 12 hours before giving a lower dose of medicine. Then, they use the same list every 12 hours during weaning. The list helps them check for the same symptoms each time. You do not have to use the WAT-1 at home, but learning about it helps you know what to check.

It might take several days or weeks for your child to stop taking all their pain and sedation medicines. Nurses use the WAT-1 list until your child has not taken any of these medicines for 72 hours. This is three (3) full 24-hour days. Nurses will watch for withdrawal symptoms until the medicine is out of your child’s system.

Why is checking symptoms important?

Your child’s health care team needs to know if your child has withdrawal symptoms. If so, they need to know how mild or severe they are. Your child might need to wean off the medicine more slowly, or even go back to a higher dose for a short time. This can stop the symptoms and keep your child more comfortable. When the symptoms are under control, the weaning can start again.

Weaning off pain and sedation medicines at home

Weaning off pain and sedation medicines usually starts in the hospital. If your child goes home during this time, nurses will teach you about withdrawal symptoms and when to call the clinic. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Loose or watery bowel movements,
  • Vomiting or gagging,
  • Fever – A temperature above 100 degrees,
  • Sweating, yawning, or sneezing more than normal, and
  • Other symptoms. 


If you have questions about stopping pain and sedation medicines, please talk to your child’s doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. If you are inside the hospital, dial 0. In the local area, call 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 after the call is connected.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).