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 and side effects. They should be taken with care.
Opioids can lead to dependency, life-threatening breathing problems and even increased sensitivity to pain. It's important to find out if your pain medicine is an opioid and to learn more about using it safely.
Talk to your GP about whether opioids are right for you, other ways to manage your pain and how to safely reduce opioids — if that's what is best for you.
If you, or another person, are experiencing an opioid overdose or a serious side effect, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Know your medicines
Pain-relief medicines can help manage short (acute) or long-term (chronic) pain. They may be obtained on prescription or supplied 'over-the-counter' (OTC).
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 diseases.
LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — Search for specific generic or brand-name medications and learn how to take your medicines safely.
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.
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
Medicines alone are not the most effective way to treat chronic pain. Explore other options, such as therapy, exercise and interventional treatments.
Resources and support
Call the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line 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.
These organisations provide further specialist information and support services:
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation: find alcohol and drug support services in your area
- Chronic Pain Australia: information for people living with chronic pain
- Musculoskeletal Australia: an A-Z guide to musculoskeletal pain management
- NPS MedicineWise: learn about recent changes to opioid prescriptions
- Painaustralia: improving the quality of life of people with pain
- painHEALTH: info, tips and personal stories to help with musculoskeletal pain
- Palliative Care Australia: support for people with pain during palliative care
- Reach for the facts: learn about opioid dependency and get support
- Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA): for information on prescription opioids
- THIS WAY UP: access a free online chronic-pain management course
- Your Room: an initiative by NSW Health and St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service — information on opioid-related harm and support services in NSW
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Last reviewed: April 2021