Video transcript

Opioids are morphine-like drugs used to treat pain. They include medications such as codeine, fentanyl and oxycodone and illicit drugs such as heroin.

Opioids are good at treating acute pain, but there’s little evidence they’re effective for chronic pain. And opioids are potentially dangerous. People become used to them and need higher and higher doses which brings them closer to the dose that can kill them.

Overdose deaths from all types of opioids are at record high levels in Australia. More people are dying from overdosing on prescription opioids, than illicit ones.

In 2016, 1045 Australians between 15-64 years died from opioid overdose. And prescription drugs accounted for 65% of these deaths. This is a significant increase in the last 10 years.

The US is experiencing ‘epidemic’ levels of opioid overdose and there is evidence that Australia is on a similar trajectory.

So what can be done to curb this rise in opioid addiction, abuse and overdose? Only use opioids for pain sparingly and in the smallest dose possible. Hospitals should only give a day or two’s supply when discharging a patient who still needs pain relief.

If you have chronic, long term pain, the most effective treatment is by a team and not with opioids. If someone feels dependent on opioids then referral for substitution.

If you know someone that is addicted to opioids consider carrying naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that temporarily reverses the effects of opioids, allowing time to seek medical help.

The opiate, codeine, is now only accessible with a prescription. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction issues and needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14   or in an emergency call 000.

Last Reviewed: 23/08/2018

myDr