The Use of Opioids in Pain Medication

“Opioids are a type of medication which Pain Specialists prescribe for the treatment of severe or persistent or pain. They are used by people with chronic backaches, by patients recovering from surgery, by adults who have been hurt through playing sports, or by those who have been seriously injured in falls, car accidents, or other incidents” [1]

The Low-Down on Opioids

Pain Consultants frequently recommend this ‘morphine-type’ of medication when patients are suffering severe or moderate pain. There are many different types of opioids that can be given, and these are chosen in-line with the personal medical history, and needs of the individual. The various types comprise: morphine, dihydrocodeine, codeine, oxycodone, tramadol, diamorphine. and buprenorphine. And on some occasions: methadone, tapentadol, and hydromorphone. – Some of these names may be familiar to you. Further, if someone is experiencing some form of trauma, or has just undergone surgery, then the Pain Specialist may prescribe the patient opioids for a limited period of time [1].

So How Do Opioids Work Exactly?

“Opioids attach to proteins called opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gut & other parts of the body. When this happens, the opioids block pain messages sent from the body through the spinal cord to the brain” [1]

The Broad Choice of Opioids Available to the Pain Specialist

Opioids come as liquids, tablets, or suppositories (the latter are easily inserted into the back passage/rectum). Moreover, some medicines come in the form of lozenges or skin patches. In addition, the patient’s pain may need to be managed using alternative modalities, or other types of medication. For example, subcutaneous infusions or injections may also be recommended by the Pain Doctor [1,2].

Anti-inflammatory medicines or paracetamol, may also be given in conjunction with the opioid medication. And certain types of opioids could also given together. Further, of note: a short-acting medicine is utilised as and when, it is required to treat any additional pain that the patient may be suffering. Conversely, a long-acting medicine is regularly employed to control the sufferer’s pain [2].

What Next?

When you book an appointment with an Experienced Pain Specialist, they review your medical history, ask you a number of questions as to the cause and severity of your pain, work out a Personalised Treatment Plan, and then explain the type of opioid/s that they are prescribing, in easy to understand, layman’s terms.


[1]. American Society of Anesthesiologists (2021). “What Are Opioids.”,treat%20persistent%20or%20severe%20pain.

[2]. NHS Imperial College Healthcare (2021). “Controlling Your Pain With Opioids.”