Prescription opioids can be an effective way to manage your pain.¹ However, whether you’ve been prescribed opioids to help reduce acute severe pain after an injury or surgery, or for chronic pain, it’s important you know what they are and what to expect.

If you have been prescribed opioids as part of your treatment, keep in mind the ultimate goal is usually to reduce your pain and improve your day to day living. It’s also important to realise that taking opioids is only one way of managing your pain, and that they are unlikely to take away your pain completely.

Please note, you should never stop any medication without first talking to your doctor or pharmacist. Prescription opioids can be prescribed for people with cancer or who are nearing the end of their life. While this information on opioids may be of use, these circumstances are unique and need discussion with your medical team.

What Is A Prescription Opioid?

Generally prescribed for pain relief, opioids are a class of medicine. They are known as “depressants”, which means they slow down the function of the central nervous system to relieve pain.²

Common Opioid Pain Medications Include:

+ oxycodone (brand names include OxyContin, Endone or Targin)
morphine (brand names include MS Contin or Kapanol)
codeine (brand names include Panadeine Forte or Nurofen Plus)
fentanyl (brand names include Durogesic, Fentanyl Sandoz Patches)³

To see if your medication is an opioid, click here.

Are Prescription Opioids The Answer?

It’s natural to want to take control of pain as soon as possible, but it’s important to do so thoughtfully. Prescription opioids on their own are rarely the answer. If they are prescribed, they should be part of a plan which focusses on managing your health and wellbeing while letting you get on with life.

Your plan should consider how and when you should take your medication, what changes you should see and when you will review if it’s working. Your plan should also include other strategies which can work with your medications. To explore other ways you can manage your pain, click here.

It is also important to know that taking prescription opioids regularly before surgery can make your recovery from the surgery more difficult and increase your risk of complications. Talk to your doctor about options to ensure the best possible outcome for you, which may include reducing how much you are taking.

To further understand pain and opioids, check out the video below:


[1] NIDA (2019), Prescription opioids.

[2] NIDA (2019), Prescription opioids.

[3] NIDA (2019), Prescription opioids.

[4] Cozowicz C, et al. (2017), ‘Opioid prescription levels and postoperative outcomes in orthopaedic surgery’ in Pain 158(12): 2422-2430.