Opioids learning module

4. Principal risks and risk-reduction measures

Some noteworthy risks of opioids are discussed in this module. Summaries of product characteristics and the BNF should be consulted for a fuller account of the adverse effects and warnings for individual opioids.

Note. Some advice in this module may not apply in the palliative care setting. Also, the module does not cover infrequent effects which occur on chronic treatment, such as hyperalgesia, myoclonus, and endocrine derangement.

Very common (> 10%) and common (1–10%) adverse effects:

Infrequent but potentially serious adverse effects:

  • Ileus
  • Convulsions
  • Bradycardia
  • Respiratory depression
  • dependence and withdrawal

Important drug interactions

Pregnancy and breastfeeding


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Page last modified: 17 February 2015