Opioid medicines and pain
Strong pain medicines are a necessary part of life for many people. But prescription pain medicines, including a group known as opioids, come both with risks — such as dependency — and side effects. They should always be taken with care.
Talk to your GP about the best ways to manage your pain. They can advise if opioids are right for you.
If a person is not breathing, or if they are unresponsive, seek help straight away. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
Know your medicines
Pain-relief medicines can help manage short (acute) or long-term (chronic) pain. Some need a prescription from your doctor. You can buy others over the counter from a pharmacy.
Taking opioid medicines safely
Opioids are prescribed in the short term to relieve severe pain following surgery or an injury. They also help people manage pain caused by cancer and terminal illness.
Are you taking opioids?
If your medicines contain any of these active ingredients, they are categorised as opioids. Click on the link to learn more about the active ingredient.
LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — Search for specific generic or brand-name medications and learn how to take your medicines safely.
WORRIED ABOUT YOUR OPIOID USE? — The Opioid Risk Indicator can help you find out if you may be developing a problem.
Get the facts
About 1 in 8 Australians have chronic pain — pain that lasts beyond the normal healing time, of about 3 to 6 months, after injury or illness.
What are opioids?
Learn more about how opioids work and the risks and benefits of taking opioids. Know when to see your doctor and what to do in the case of an overdose.
Explore your options
ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Pain Question Planner to prepare for your doctor’s appointment.
Got questions about opioid pain medicines? Get quick answers to some frequently asked questions.
Other ways to manage pain
Your doctor can help you explore other ways to manage your chronic pain, such as physiotherapy, relaxation and exercise, as well as medication.
Resources and support
Call 1300 MEDICINE on 1300 633 424 to talk about the medicines you are taking for your pain. Call from anywhere in Australia, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm AEST (excluding New South Wales public holidays).
After hours, you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222. Speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).
These organisations provide further specialist information and support services:
Alcohol and Drug FoundationFind alcohol and drug support services in your area
Chronic Pain AustraliaInformation for people living with chronic pain
Musculoskeletal AustraliaAn A-Z guide to musculoskeletal pain management
NPS MedicineWiseLearn about recent changes to opioid prescriptions
NPS MedicineWisePersonal experience videos with people living with pain
PainaustraliaImproving the quality of life of people with pain
painHEALTHInfo, tips and personal stories to help with musculoskeletal pain
Palliative Care AustraliaSupport for people with pain during palliative care
Reach for the factsLearn about opioid dependency and get support
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)For information on prescription opioids
THIS WAY UPAccess a free online chronic-pain management course
Your RoomAn initiative by NSW Health and St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service — information on opioid-related harm and support services in NSW
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2021