Prescription opioids

  • fentanyl
  • codeine
  • methadone
  • morphine
  • oxycodone
  • biodone
  • physeptone
  • hydromorphone
  • jurnista
Are opioids a problem for you?
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What are opioids?

Opioids are natural drugs derived from the opium poppy or synthetic drugs, and have a depressant or sedating effect, causing the brain and central nervous system to slow down.

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Prescription opioids

Opioids have a strong pain-killing effect, therefore pharmaceutical opioids may be prescribed for medical conditions, particularly for acute or cancer pain management. Pharmaceutical opioids include morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, buprenorphine, tapentadol, tramadol and codeine.

Immediate effects can include

  • pain relief
  • feeling of wellbeing
  • reduced anxiety / calmness
  • sleepiness

Effects depend on...

How much you take, how often you have been using opioids (the longer you use, the more you may build up a tolerance to the effects), when you last took opioids, how pure the opioid is, your height and weight, your general health, your past experience with drugs, whether you use opioids on their own or with other drugs.

Opioids can come in the form of illicit or illegal drugs such as heroin or diverted pharmaceutical opioids used for non-medical purposes. Heroin or other illegally obtained opioids may be cut or mixed with other drugs or substances, it is therefore hard to know how strong the drug is and this can lead to accidental overdose or death. Using opioids in combination with other drugs (such as sleeping tablets, other sedatives and alcohol) can also lead to accidental overdose or death.

  • pupils of the eye become smaller
  • sweating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • shallow breathing

How opioids affects your body

Tap a body part to learn more of the effects Heroin places on your body.

Long term effects can include

  • overdose (the longer you use opioids, the greater your risk of overdose)
  • long-term and severe constipation
  • teeth problems
  • increased risk of contracting Hepatitis C and HIV
  • infertility (women)
  • impotence (men)
  • damaged veins from injecting
  • skin abscesses (sores with pus)
  • loss of appetite
  • irregular or no menstrual period (women)
  • heart and lung problems
  • infections of the blood

General Information

Are opioids a problem for you?

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  • The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change lives in many different ways, to support the community we have developed a range of alcohol and other drug specific resources to help you with accessing services and support you with any stress and anxiety you may be experiencing. We will continue to update this page as new resources and information becomes available.

    For general updates, advice and facts visit COVID-19 (coronavirus) and follow NSW Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    Contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) for up-to-date information about
    service availability in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ADIS helpline is open 24/7 on 1800 250 015 or via Web Chat Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5:00pm.

    You can also contact the Family Drug Support (FDS) 24/7 helpline on 1300 368 186 for drug and alcohol issues, or access online support via the FDS We hear you - Families matter during COVID 19 page.

    On this page

    1. Impact on alcohol and other drug services
    2. Managing your use of alcohol and other drugs
    3. Looking after your mental and physical health
    4. Safety and wellbeing

    Impact on alcohol and other drug services

    As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, NSW Health is working with local health districts, non-government organisation (NGO), alcohol and other drug (AOD) services and community pharmacies to ensure continuity of service. For full details visit Guidance for AOD Services about COVID-19 on the NSW Health website. For information on access to free naloxone (opioid overdose reversing medicine), visit 'Take home naloxone – a key component in COVID-19 preparedness'.

    Visit the Opioid Treatment Program page for information on the program and FAQs for OTP patients during the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF), which includes answers to questions such as: Will I be able to continue to get my opioid treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are my rights when negotiating my treatment during this time? I am required to self-isolate or have COVID-19 and cannot leave my house, how do I get my dose?

    People who test positive for COVID-19 and are currently undergoing treatment for alcohol and other drug dependence can continue with their program. Talk to your service provider to discuss your treatment in the event you test positive.

    Watch Dr Anthony Gill, Chief Addiction Medicine Specialist, NSW Health on advice for service providers. 

    Managing your use of alcohol and other drugs

    NSW Health have launched the new free smartphone app, Drinks Meter. The app is a useful tool in this time of social distancing and isolation as it provides you with an opportunity to manage your alcohol consumption in times of stress and anxiety.

    The Get Healthy Service Alcohol Reduction Program is also available for people who want to reduce their alcohol consumption to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and a healthier lifestyle. The Alcohol Reduction Program is open to anyone aged 18 years and over.

    NUAA, the NSW Users and AIDS Association, have published a new fact sheet on COVID-19 and Harm Reduction. The fact sheet provides advice and information on protecting your health while using drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Also read ACON helping to reduce COVID-19 drug and alcohol harm, for information and harm reduction advice regarding alcohol and crystal (methamphetamine) use. Written and designed by ACON, Australia's leading community-based organisation specialising in HIV and LGBTQ health.

    Looking after your mental and physical health

    In this time of unprecedented concern about our collective health and livelihoods, it is more important than ever to remain socially connected and physically healthy. For more advice and tips to keep healthy read Maintaining happiness amid global anxiety and Soothing COVID-19 isolation anxiety.

    Safety and wellbeing

    There is no excuse for violence and abuse. This includes during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you or someone you care about is experiencing domestic and family violence there are services available to provide support.

    If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, please call Police on 000 (triple zero).

    You can contact 1800 RESPECT online or by phone on 1800 737 732 for confidential information, support and counselling. Women can also contact the NSW Domestic Violence Line on 1800 65 64 63 for support, counselling and referral to ongoing support.

    If you are worried about your own behaviour and use of violence, you can visit the NSW Government's Communities & Justice webpage for information or contact the Men's Referral Service online or by phone on 1300 766 491.

    Please note: in a situation where rescue breathing and chest compressions maybe required please refer to the Australian Resuscitation Council for NSW Health recommended advice during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

    For further information please visit the NSW Government's COVID-19 Mental health and safety webpage.

    More about COVID-19 Support
  • The NSW Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) is an evidence-based public health program that aims to reduce the transmission of infections such as HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs. NSP outlets provide sterile injecting equipment such as needles and syringes, Fitpacks and other injecting equipment (such as swabs, water, spoons and cotton balls) as well as disposal facilities free of charge.

    NSP outlets are staffed by specialist workers who provide access to sterile injecting equipment, promote safe disposal practices and facilitate referrals to health, welfare and community services as needed. NSP outlets may also be able to assist with testing for bloodborne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C. You may not even require a blood test such as with the Dried Blood Spot (DBS) test. Ask your NSP staff member or visit dbstest.health.nsw.gov.au for more information. 

    Who is the program for?

    The NSP is for people who inject drugs to avoid contracting or transmitting bloodborne diseases and to provide a place for safe disposal of sharps containers (needles and syringes).

    NSP Outlets in NSW

    To help the community access the program, an interactive map has been developed listing all public NSP outlets across NSW. Use the map below to find your nearest NSP outlet or refer to the NSP listing by suburb page for details.

    If you would like further information and/or advice call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

    More about NSW Needle and Syringe Program (NSP)
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