What are you most worried about?

      The ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of Opioid Pain Medications

      Have you or someone you know been prescribed an opioid painkiller, e.g. codeine, fentanyl, morphine, or oxycodone? When taken for a short time and as directed by a doctor, prescription opioids are considered safe for pain relief following surgery or for severe pain conditions.1

      But, if taken regularly and over a long period of time, there is a risk some can become addicted.

      As well as numbing the pain, the opioid can provide feelings of intense pleasure. The ‘highs’ leave you feeling happy, chilled and confident, so you start to crave more and use more. Then come the downsides. You may start to feel physically sick, your state of mind changes, your relationships and work start to suffer.1

      How Are Opioid Painkillers affecting you?

      Note you may not be experiencing all of the possible effects listed below.

      Psychological Effects


      Pain relief



      Mood swings

      Anxiety and depression

      Physical Effects





      Vein damage

      Extreme Use

      Heart Problems





      Other Effects

      Money worries

      Partner or family breakdown

      Problem with holding down a job

      Risk of infections eg. hepatitis C, HIV

      Adapted from illustration by Gilmartin B in Hartney E (2020)2

      Whether you are worried about how it’s affecting your health, your relationships or work, or if it is causing money worries, there is help and support available.3

      Admitting there’s a problem

      This is one of the hardest things to do. If you are reading this, you probably have a gut feeling there is a problem.

      People misuse prescription opioids by:1

      • taking the medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed
      • taking someone else’s prescription medicine
      • taking the medicine to get ‘high’

      Do any of these sound familiar to you?

      If you’re still not sure, maybe take the screening test to find out if you have a problem with prescription painkillers.

      Am I Addicted?

      Answer as honestly and accurately as you can. Print your results and a Doctor Discussion Guide and share it with your doctor – it may help you decide on treatment option that works best for you. Your results will not be saved.

      Have you used opioid medications other than those needed for medical reasons?
      Do you misuse more than one medication at a time?
      Are you always able to stop using drugs?
      Have you ever had blackouts or flashbacks as a result of opioid medication use?
      Do you ever feel bad or guilty about your opioid use?
      Does your spouse (or your parents) ever complain about your involvement with opioids?
      Have you neglected your family because of your use of opioids?
      Have you engaged in illegal activities in order to obtain opioids?
      Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms (felt sick) when you stopped taking opioids?
      Have you had medical problems as a result of your opioid use (such as memory loss, hepatitis, convulsions, bleeding)?

      Adapted from DAST-28 item questionnaire4


      Drug dependence screening test

      Your results

      Based on the answers provided, you scored:

      • 0-2

        If you are concerned about opioid dependence you may wish to consider talking to your doctor.

      • 3-5

        It is recommended that you talk with a doctor about a potential risk for drug misuse or opioid dependence & treatment options.

      • 6-10

        It is highly recommended that you talk with a doctor about further assessment for drug misuse or opioid dependence.

      The sample discussion guide can assist you in starting a conversation with your doctor or other healthcare provider on how to manage your dependence. It includes common questions that you may wish to discuss during your first visit.
      Remember to print your results and Doctor Discussion Guide.

      Print Doctor Discussion Guide

      Have you answered yes to any of these?

      What’s Next?

      Figure out your reason to make a change. Ask yourself, what would changing your drug use mean to you?


      Physical and mental wellbeing
      Relationships with friends and family





      Based on: Department of Health. How to reduce or quit drugs5

      Focusing on your goal will give you the motivation to go and talk to a doctor. Reminding yourself of your goal will help you stay on track or get back on track when the journey gets tough.5

      The journey ahead

      The physical effects of stopping any drug of addiction can often be too much for the person to handle by themselves. Doing it alone or going ‘cold turkey’ is likely to be really hard.6 To stop injecting drugs such as heroin or any drug of addiction, can often be too much for the person to handle by themselves.

      In fact, many will use again simply to stop the withdrawal symptoms. This is risky. When you stop taking an opioid, tolerance to the drug is lowered. This means a chance of an overdose is higher. To keep safe, you need to get the right advice. Talk to your doctor about take home overdose reversal options.

      It makes sense to talk to a doctor who understands opioid addiction, its treatments and, importantly, understands what your needs are.




      Let’s Talk help

      Use the search tool below to find a local doctor who can help you with your addiction.

      You can also talk to your GP who can recommend specialist help. Once you have located a doctor or a clinic, you may need to get a referral. When you book an appointment, the clinic will let you know if this is required.

      Note that the search results may not include all doctors and clinics in any specific area.
      This website does not endorse a particular doctor or clinic.

      Getting the conversation started

      To help you prepare for your appointment, these are some questions that the doctor may ask you. These include information about your:

      • Drug use – how often, why you think you take drugs, and how it makes you feel
      • How ready you are to make a change
      • What change you want to make
      • Your current life situation – relationships, work, etc.

      Once the doctor has a good understanding of you and your needs, some questions you could ask include:

      What are my treatment options?

      What will help me stay in treatment?

      What additional support will I be able to get?

      Show references

      1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Opioids DataSheet. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
      2. Hartney E. The Feeling of Getting High on Heroin. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-heroin-effects-feel-like-22047 (accessed 21 August 2020)
      3. Alcohol and Drug Foundation. Heroin. Available at https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/heroin/ (accessed 12 October 2020)
      4. Skinner HA. The drug abuse screening test. Addict Behav 1982;7:363–71.
      5. Department of Health. How to reduce or quit drugs. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/drugs/about-drugs/how-to-reduce-or-quit-drugs

      Let’s Talk SupPort

      Keeping prescription painkiller use in check

      If you have been prescribed opioid painkillers, here are some tips to keep you safe:

      Don’t use more of the pain medication than what your doctor has prescribed.

      Talk to your doctor if you find you want to use more of the medication even when your pain is under control.

      Avoid alcohol when taking pain medications.

      Keep track of other prescription or over-the-counter medicines you are taking and tell your doctor. These can affect how well your pain medication works.

      Tell your doctor if you have a history of misusing substances, such as drugs or alcohol.

      Based on DAST-28 questions.4

      There are many different types of support available that range from phone hotlines where you can chat to someone who understands and can give you advice that is important to your situation, practical information such as where you can get sterile injecting equipment, to connecting with online support groups. Some of these are listed below.

      Please note, the intention of providing links to these websites is for information only. These should not replace the advice from your doctor. Indivior accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites. 

      National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline: 1800 250 015

      You will be automatically directed to the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) in the state or territory you are calling from.

      This website should not be used as a substitute to seeking medical advice. If you have any concerns, please make an appointment to talk to your doctor.