General considerations for the management of pain with any medication that contains an opioid mechanism of action

The following general aspects should be considered:

• An individualised, patient-centred approach for the diagnosis and treatment of pain is essential to establish a therapeutic alliance between patient and clinician

• Consider patient variables that may affect opioid dose for each patient prior to opioid use1

• In patients with acute pain e.g. post-surgery pain, the use of medication should be for the shortest necessary time1

• All patients should be carefully selected, abuse risk factors evaluated and regular monitoring and follow-up implemented to ensure that opioids are used appropriately and in alignment with treatment goals (pain intensity and functionality) as agreed with the patient2,3

• Patients should be made aware of the potential side effects of opioids and the potential for developing tolerance, dependence and addiction2,3

• It is important to optimally use multimodal, non-opioid approaches in acute and chronic pain before escalating to opioids or in conjunction with opioid therapy1

• Addiction is possible even when opioids are taken as directed. The exact prevalence of abuse in patients treated with opioids for chronic pain is difficult to determine4

• Regular clinical reviews are required for long-term opioid treatment to assess pain control, impact on lifestyle, physical and psychological well-being, side effects and continued need for treatment5

• Any long-term treatment with opioids should be monitored and re-evaluated regularly, including tapering down the dose or discontinuing treatment2,3

• Signs of opioid use disorder should be monitored and addressed2,3

• Patients and the general public can benefit from clear educational materials and awareness interventions to support the responsible use of opioids6


  1. DHHS Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Taskforce Report May 2019.
  2. Faculty of Pain Medicine, Opioids Aware. Available at: (accessed May 2020).
  3. Kosten TR et al, Scie Pract. Perspect 2002;1:13-20.
  4. Rosenblum A et al Exp. Clin. Psychopharmacol. 2008;16(5):405-416.
  5. O’Brien T et al. Eur J Pain 2017;21:3-192.
  6. OECD Health Policy. Addressing Problematic opioid use in OECD Countries May 2019. Available at: (accessed May 2020).

M-N/A-UK-05-20-0006 May 2020

M-N/A-UK-07-20-0001 July 2020