Online course in Health & Psychology

Opioid Analgesics: Treating Pain in People with Cancer

Understand opioid prescribing for the treatment of cancer pain, and how to avoid and manage opioid-related adverse events.

  • Duration 3 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $69 Find out more
  • Accreditation Available More info

Learn how to safely and effectively prescribe opioids for cancer pain

Despite being commonly prescribed, opioids account for more reported drug errors than any other high-risk medication (Alanazi et al, 2016). They represent a significant patient safety and public health issue. This course will help you increase your knowledge of the basic pharmacology of opioids so you are better able to prescribe them safely and effectively in the treatment of cancer-related pain.

You will learn the principles for safe prescribing, get to grips with the management of opioid-related adverse events and understand the rationale for prescribing opioid analgesics for cancer pain.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsOpioids have the power to transform the quality of life for people living with cancer. They can also cause great harm if used inappropriately prescribed incorrectly or abused. These high risk drugs have the potential to cause serious life-threatening harm, and account for more reported drug errors than other similarly risky medication. Prescribing opioids is a complex process with the potential for error at every stage, but we know that educating clinicians about opioids improves prescriber behaviour, and reduces opioid related harm. This course is for healthcare professionals who prescribe opioids and all who care for patients with cancer who are taking them. You will learn about the basic pharmacology and rationale for opioids for the management of cancer pain.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 secondsWe explore the principles of safe opioid prescribing and practice including initiating, titrating and switching these drugs. You'll learn how to identify and proactively manage common opioid side-effects, and recognize when pain may not respond to opioid analgesics. Newcastle University's Faculty of Medical Sciences has a proven track record of delivering high quality postgraduate education. It's suite of online programs in oncology and palliative care provide expert-led education for qualified healthcare professionals all over the world, which consistently evaluate highly in terms of the learner experience and relevance to clinical practice. By studying this course you will be better equipped to safely and effectively treat cancer related pain and improve the care you give your patients.

What topics will you cover?

  • Week 1: Basic pharmacology and rationale for opioid analgesics.
  • Week 2: Principles of safe opioid prescribing in practice for patients with cancer.
  • Week 3: Safe management of opioid-related adverse events.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service: This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 29 Jul 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Describe the pharmacology of and mechanisms of action of opioid analgesics.
  • Explain pharmacological and physiological terminology related to opioid analgesia.
  • Explain the rationale for selecting opioid analgesics for the treatment of cancer-related pain.
  • Demonstrate the process of selecting an appropriate dosing schedule for commonly prescribed opioid analgesics.
  • Describe when and how to convert opioids without compromising safety and efficacy.
  • Describe how to manage common and life-threatening opioid related adverse events.
  • Describe reasons why pain may not respond or responds poorly to opioids.

Who is the course for?

This course is for qualified healthcare professionals who prescribe opioid drugs and/or care for patients who are taking opioids anywhere in the world. It will be of particular use to general practitioners, palliative care specialists, acute hospital practitioners (surgical and medical disciplines), pharmacists and those with an interest in pain management, including medical and non-medical prescribers and those professionals involved in monitoring and supervision of opioid prescribing.

Who will you learn with?

Victoria Hewitt

Victoria Hewitt

Specialist Palliative Care Physician and Curriculum Director for Masters programmes in Oncology and Palliative Care, Newcastle University. Special interest in safe medicines management at end of life

Paul Coulter

Paul Coulter

Cons. Palliative Medicine
Q member
Medical Director at Hillcroft House Research Hub
Lecturer Birmingham City Uni
Runner up RCGP GP of yr

Who developed the course?

A thriving international community of over 20,000 students. The university’s mission as a world-class civic university means it applies its academic excellence to real-world challenges.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 5 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • Access to this course’s tests as well as a print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$239 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: