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Opioid medicines and pain

5-minute read

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.

Opioids and chronic pain
Department of Health Safe Opioids

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.

Get the facts

Farmer in tractor living with chronic pain.

Chronic pain

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.

Opioid medicines

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.

Opioid FAQs

Opioid FAQs

Got questions about opioid pain medicines? Get quick answers to some frequently asked questions.

Other ways to manage pain

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:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

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