It is important that you know how to safely manage your pain when you leave hospital. Not everyone who receives opioid analgesics while in hospital will need to take them when they leave. In some cases, the pain can be managed with other medicines or techniques.
If an opioid analgesic is prescribed for you, the dose will help you to manage your pain and get back to your regular day-to-day activities. The amount you receive will be based on several things. Your clinician will consider your expected recovery along with the amount of pain relief you needed while you were in hospital. You should be advised to reduce your dose of opioid analgesic as your pain and ability to function improve.
The amount of opioid analgesic medicine you receive will be individualised to your needs. To reduce the risk of harm, there are limits on the amounts of opioid analgesics hospitals can provide:
- If you are seen in the emergency department (ED), the most that can be supplied is three days of treatment
- If you have been admitted to hospital, the amount of opioid analgesics you are given will be based on your pain relief needs in the last 24 hours you were in hospital. The most that can be supplied is seven days of treatment.
The aim is to help with your pain and give you time to visit your general practitioner where your care will be reviewed.
If you leave hospital on a weekend, live far from medical support or if your pain is expected to continue for longer, your clinician will talk to you when you are leaving hospital about the appropriate amount of opioid analgesic for your circumstances.
To ensure your care is continued, you will be advised to consult your general practitioner for follow-up after you leave hospital. If you do not have a general practitioner, your clinician will advise you on how to access care after you leave hospital.
You will be given a medication management plan describing why you were prescribed the opioid analgesic and how to reduce and stop taking this medicine. The plan to reduce and stop your opioid analgesic will be provided to your general practitioner. This is to make sure that you use these medicines for as short a time as possible, as long-term use of opioid analgesics can cause serious health and social issues. The medication management plan will include information on:
- How many times a day to take, use or apply the medicine, and if the medicine should be taken with food
- Whether the medicine will affect other medicines you use
- What the potential adverse effects are and how to manage them
- When to seek urgent care for adverse effects of the medicine or if the medicine is not helping with the pain
- How to reduce the medicine, to allow you to stop taking the medicine (weaning and cessation plan)
- How to safely store and dispose of the medicine.
If you already have opioid analgesics at home that can treat your acute pain, you may not be prescribed additional opioid analgesics when you leave hospital.
Your clinician will ask you for the details of your general practitioner to ensure your care is continued when you leave hospital. Information will be provided to them about the care you received in hospital, including the medicines you received in hospital and when you left hospital.