Opioids, such as oxycodone, Targin or morphine, have become much more widely prescribed for non-cancer pain over the last 30 years. The original research that led to this was, unfortunately, not very good. We hoped that giving people with persistent pain stronger pain relief would work, it would let them do more and that hardly anyone would get dependant or addicted. The reality, that has emerged, is that people are much less likely to get back to being able to do what they want in life. People can become dependant on their meds - rates of addiction are between 5 - 20% in research studies.
How do opioids work?
All the opioids work on receptors in the nervous system that are normally for your own natural feel good transmitters - the endorphins and enkephalins. So if we think back to how pain works in the nervous system the opioids are mainly damping down the alarm system and feedback.
Think about how useful your painkillers are to you. Can you do what you want or does pain still control what you can and can't do? Have you got side effects, like constipation, disturbed sleep, low motivation - life just drifting by???
What about the outcome of my operation and taking opioids?
There's good evidence that having been on opioids before your operation, makes it more likely that you'll have more pain afterwards and it makes it more likely that you'll develop persistent pain.
But wouldn't my pain be even worse if I cut down my painkillers?
No …. our experience with people cutting down their painkillers is that there's a blip - a short term increase in pain, while your nervous system starts making endorphins again - but this only lasts a week or two at most.
The trick is to take it slow with cutting down - only 5 -10% of your total dose at a time, every two to four weeks - there's more info on the why, what to do and how to do it on the Getting Started page.
While we believe that the advice on this website is accurate and based on expert medical opinion you should always consult your healthcare professional on any matter related to your health and well being. He or she knows your circumstances best and therefore the appropriate action to take on your behalf.