Role of the nurse in supporting the safe use of opioids
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Role of the nurse in supporting the safe use of opioids

Angela Telford Nurse Specialist in Acute Pain, Freeman Hospital, The Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To refresh your knowledge of the mode of action, side effects and risks of opioids

  • To enhance your awareness of the safety implications associated with the use of prescribed opioids

  • To understand the role of the nurse in caring for and supporting patients who are taking opioids

Opioids are powerful analgesics that are derived from the opium poppy plant. They are recognised as central in the management of acute pain and cancer pain, but concerns about long-term use have resulted in recommendations that they should be used with caution in the management of chronic pain. Opioids have associated side effects and risks, but these may be exaggerated and some healthcare professionals can be unnecessarily cautious and withhold the use of opioids, even in cases where these medicines may be beneficial. It is important that nurses understand the pharmacology, side effects and risks of opioids, so they can ensure these medicines are administered safely.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11534

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Telford A (2020) Role of the nurse in supporting the safe use of opioids. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11534

On 1 April 2016 the statutory patient safety functions previously delivered by NHS England transferred with the national patient safety team to NHS Improvement

Published online: 17 August 2020

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