Prescribed opioids after leaving hospital?

It can be tough leaving hospital after surgery. We’re still recovering so we don’t feel well, we can’t do much or keep up with our friends and family, or we might feel pressure to get back to work.


On top of that, the hospital likely sent us home with a lot of strong pain relief medications like codeine (with brand names such as Panadeine Forte) or oxycodone (with brand names such as Endone or Oxycontin) in case you need them.


But for some, using these medications for too long can increase the chances of having unwanted side-effects like tolerance, dependence and addiction.[i]


Up to one in ten people who leave hospital after surgery with an opioid prescription keep using opioid medication long-term.[ii] And about 50% of all people who are taking opioids started taking them after a ‘trigger’ event like surgery in public hospitals.[iii]


In Australia, the evidence now shows the person most likely to die due to a drug overdose is a middle-aged man who lives regionally and is taking a prescription opioid medication like oxycodone.[iv]


If you’re about to start taking or have been prescribed an opioid medication, make a plan about how and when to safely reduce and stop with your health professional. Download a medication action plan to start the conversation.


The good news is, there are other safer and effective ways to get on top of your pain and get back to work and your life with family and friends.


Download a pain medication action plan now to start the conversation with your health professional.


Medication dependence can happen to anyone. Find out more about getting support.


[i] Shah, A., Hayes, C. J., and Martin, B., ‘Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use – United States, 2006-2015’, Weekly, March 17 2017. Accessed March 2019:


[ii] The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, ‘Reducing opioid-related harm: a hospital pharmacy landscape paper’, Nov 2018. Accessed March 2019:


[iii] Health Quality & Safety Commission. Atlas of healthcare variation. Opioids. 2016. (accessed 16/02/2018


[iv] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3303.0 – Causes of Death, Australia, 2016’. Accessed 4 July 2016