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Pain-relieving medicines for acute pain – information for patients

15th November, 2021

The Health Quality & Safety Commission, Choosing Wisely and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists have developed an information leaflet to help patients, caregivers and whānau use opioid medicines safely, to manage non-cancer pain.

Opioids are powerful pain-relieving medicines. Commonly used opioids include medicines like codeine, morphine, oxycodone, tramadol and methadone.

Opioids may be recommended by a health professional for the treatment of acute pain and chronic pain caused by cancer. However, evidence shows these medicines are not very useful in helping to manage chronic non-cancer pain. Opioids can also cause harms like constipation, nausea, drowsiness, addiction/dependence and overdose. Harms can range from mild to severe and can end up causing death.

These harmful effects are more likely to happen to people who take opioids for three months or more, or who take higher doses of opioids.

Last updated: 15th November, 2021