• Increasing trends in the misuse of prescription and over the counter drugs in Australia have been accompanied by an escalating number of adverse outcomes.
  • Currently in Australia, the medicines associated with the greatest level of harm include opioids, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics and over the counter products containing codeine.
  • Health risks associated with prolonged use of opioid treatment for pain include hyperalgesia, immunosuppression, neuroendocrine dysfunction, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, dental decay and tooth loss, bowel disorders, sedation and cognitive impairment.
  • Other consequences of pharmaceutical drug misuse include overdose, death, unintentional poisoning in children, emergency department presentations, dependence, diversion from licit to illicit use and drug trafficking.
  • The cost to Australian society of alcohol, tobacco and other drug misuse in 2004-2005 was estimated to be $56.1 billion (National Drug Strategy 2010-2015).

Risk management

The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015 seeks to address these issues through a three pillared approach including:

  • demand reduction,
  • supply reduction and
  • harm reduction.

Aligning with this strategy, this site includes tools to assist health services in addressing opioid risk reduction at discharge.

Tools and resources

The requirement to improve the safe and effective use of opioids aligns with the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards – Standard 4 (Medication Safety).

Provides advice to prescribers considering treating patients with an opioid.

This module focuses on preventing harmful use of pharmaceutical opioids and benzodiazepines

Patient information leaflet relating to analgesics supplied upon discharge

Pain management plan

Further reading

More information

For more information, contact the Program Manager, Medicines in Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Contact details

  • Quality Use of Medicines

    Department of Health & Human Services

    Postal address: GPO Box 4541, Melbourne Victoria 3001

    • Telephone Number:+61 3 9096 7786 (Tuesdays and Wednesdays)