Opioids are commonly used medicines to relieve pain. They can be very effective short-term to relieve moderate to severe pain.
There are a wide range of conditions that our GPs will prescribe opioids for, in the majority of cases this is only intended for short-term use, for example after an injury or surgery. Similarly, opioids bought over the counter such as co-codamol (codeine and paracetamol), should only be used short-term.
In the long-term, opioids only reduce pain for approximately 10% of people, yet they can still produce a number of side-effects:
Opioids carry a serious risk of addiction, which increases the longer you use them. Your body can also build up a tolerance, or ‘get used to’ opioids, meaning the same dose can become less effective. Developing a dependence for opioids means you may suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they are stopped suddenly. Withdrawal symptoms can include: shivers, diarrhoea, difficulty sleeping, sweating, irritability, agitation, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms on stopping an opioid, please contact the surgery or your local pharmacist to discuss. Do not stop taking an opioid suddenly if you have taken this for a prolonged period.
Feelings of cravings, or that you need to take more than prescribed can be a sign that you are addicted to opioids. Opioids should not be taken for reasons other than pain relief – for example, to stay calm, or to help you sleep.
Taking opioids safely:
- Take the medicine as directed, do not increase the dose or take extra doses
- Take the minimum effective dose for shortest required time
The pharmacy team at the practice continue to work to encourage patients to reduce their opioid use where appropriate. You may receive letters, or phone calls from the pharmacy team to review your opioids. If you have any questions or require advice on any of your medicines, please contact us.
If you are interested in some further information, please take a look at the following links