Opiate Based Medications

We are writing to some of our patients about the possible risks of taking opiate based medications.

Opiates include medicines such as codeine, tramadol, co-codamol, dihydrocodeine, morphine and oxycodone (i.e. Longtec & Shortec).

Whilst we recognise that patients don’t “want” to take medications, and that it is often necessary to control pain and enable functioning, there are lots of side effects associated with these medications. For this reason we will be inviting patients who regularly take opiate painkillers for a medication review over the next 12 months.

We feel that, where possible, it is important that we explore other management options or at the very least ensure that patients are taking the least amount or lowest dosage possible to control their pain.

Multiple research has highlighted that there is little evidence to support using long-term opiates for chronic pain, and suggests that there has been an underestimation of potential risks.

Possible side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Sickliness (nausea)
  • Drowsiness (which can have implications on driving)
  • Erection problems in males
  • Increased risks of falls and fractures
  • An increase in sensitivity to pain (“hyperalgesia”)
  • Becoming “dependent” or addicted to opiate medication

If you would like to discuss reducing your painkillers sooner, or get advice about any other medications that you are prescribed, please make an appointment with one of the doctors who can discuss the options with you.