Pain medication – what am I taking?

Please note: This information relates to adult usage only.


you can purchase these from your chemist

Aspirin is considered an everyday anti-inflammatory used to treat occasional headaches, toothache, and period pain. It is also known as acetylsalicylic acid.

Codeine is an opioid-based pain medication. Low dose codeine is available OTC and comes mixed with paracetamol (co-codamol) or with aspirin (co-codaprin) or with ibuprofen (Nurofen Plus). It is also available as syrup (linctus) to treat dry coughs.

See Kate’s Story about codeine addiction

Ibuprofen is anti-inflammatory medication and suited more to arthritic pain or pain caused by injury. Some people find it better for helping manage back pain than paracetamol.

Paracetamol is the most common form of pain medication. It works for headaches and non-nerve pain. Two 500mg tablets of paracetamol up to 4 times a day is a safe dose for adults (never take more than 8 tablets in a 24 hour period). Always check that paracetamol is NOT in any other medication you may be taking, for example Lemsip.


Amitriptyline is traditionally used to treat depression but at low dose levels is also used to treat pain caused by nerve sensitivity or nerve damage, such as shingles, diabetes, nerve pain and sciatica. Prescribed in 10mg, 25mg or 50mg doses, it's usual to take amitriptyline once a day before bedtime because it can make you feel sleepy.

Codeine is an opioid-based pain medication. At higher doses codeine is only available on prescription. It is available as tablets or a liquid to swallow from you GP. The most common side effects of codeine are constipation, feeling sick or feeling sleepy. The maximum dose for adults is 60mg taken 4 times a day.

read Tracie’s story about codeine addiction

Gabapentin is normally used to treat epilepsy, and it can also be used for nerve pain. Doses are between 900mg and 3,600mg a day split into 3 doses.

read Stephen’s story about gabapentin addiction

Morphine is an opioid-based pain medication and probably the one most people know. It's used to treat severe pain, for example after an operation or a serious injury, or pain from cancer or a heart attack. Morphine is also called by the brand names MST, Zomorph, Sevredol, Morphgesic, MXL or Oramorph.

Read Janet’s story about morphine addiction

Oxycodone is an opioid-based pain medication. It's used to treat severe pain, for example after an operation or a serious injury, or pain from cancer. It is also known by the brand names Oxynorm and OxyContin.

Read Bob's story about oxycodone addiction

Pregabalin is usually used to treat epilepsy and extreme anxiety. It can also be used to treat nerve pain by interfering with pain messages travelling through the brain and down the spine.

Read Stephen’s story about pregabalin addiction

Tramadol is an opioid-based pain medication. It's used to treat moderate to severe pain, for example after an operation or a serious injury. It's also used to treat long-standing pain when weaker pain medications no longer work.

Read Clive’s story about tramadol addiction

If you are being affected by any of these you are not alone

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Please speak to your GP practice for support.

There are a number of external websites that can give you more information about pain and pain medication.

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