Prescription opioids

Fentanyl, codeine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, biodone, physeptone, hydromorphone, jurnista, buprenorphine

The information on this page has been sourced from NSW Health.

What are opioids?

Unidentified pills in packaging spread across a blue surface

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.

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.

Opioids can come in the form of illicit or illegal drugs such as heroin or diverted pharmaceutical opioids used for non-medical purposes.

Opioid statistics

The 2022-23 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) reported that 2.2% of Australians aged 14 years and over had used pain-relievers and opioids for non‑medical purposes in the previous 12 months. This continues the downward trend since 2016, when 3.6% of the population had done so. In 2019 this figure was 2.7%.

Lifetime use of pain-relievers and opioids has also declined since 2016 (9.7%), with a decrease to 8.3% in 2019 and 5.1% in 2022-23.

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