Ways of taking medicines

Pain medicines are taken in several ways, depending on the type of medicine and the form that it is available in.

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The different ways of taking medicine

tablet or capsule

This is the most common form of pain medicine. It is usually swallowed with water.


This may be an option if you have trouble swallowing tablets or for convenience.


This is sucked on the inside of your cheeks and gums until it dissolves.


A needle is inserted either into a vein, into a muscle or under the skin.

skin patch

This is stuck on your skin and gradually releases medicine into the body. The patch only needs to be changed every few days.

subcutaneous infusion

Medicine is slowly injected under the skin using  a small plastic tube and portable pump. This can be given over many hours or days.

intravenous infusion

Medicine is slowly injected into a vein over many hours or days using a small plastic tube and pump. You press a button on the pump to release a set dose of medicine. This is called patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). It is used in hospitals under the supervision of a pain specialist.

intrathecal injection or infusion

Liquid medicine is delivered into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. This is commonly used to treat the most severe cancer pain.


A pellet is put into the bottom (rectum). The pellet breaks down and the medicine is absorbed by the body. This may be suitable if you have nausea or trouble swallowing.

Using medicines safely

All medicines may have side effects, particularly if they are not taken as directed. Let your doctor, nurse or pharmacist know if you’re taking any other medicines at the same time as your pain relief. This includes all prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, herbs and other supplements. Some medicines may react with each other, causing them to stop working properly or creating harmful side effects. Some effects to keep in mind include:

  • Many pills for colds and flu, and other over-the-counter medicines, can be taken with pain medicines without any harmful effects. However, if they contain paracetamol or anti-inflammatories this counts towards your total daily intake, and you may need to take a lower dose of standalone pain medicine.
  • Medicines for colds, menstrual (period) pain, headaches, and joint or muscle aches often contain a mixture of drugs, including aspirin. People receiving chemotherapy should avoid aspirin because it increases the risk of internal bleeding. Aspirin may also cause minor cuts to bleed a lot and take longer to stop bleeding (clot).
  • Over-the-counter medicines for allergies may cause drowsiness, as can some pain medicines. Taking them together can make it dangerous to drive and to operate machinery.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) collects information about medicines and medical devices that haven’t worked well. You can search the Database of Adverse Event Notifications (DAEN).

Tips for using pain medicines safely

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist for written information about your pain medicines: what they are for; when and how to take them; possible side effects and how to manage them; and possible interactions with other medicines, vitamins or herbal and natural remedies.
  • Follow the directions and only take the recommended dose. This will reduce the risk of misuse or accidental overdose.
  • Keep medicines in their original packaging so you and other people always know what they’re for. Or ask your pharmacist to put your tablets and capsules into a labelled blister pack.
  • Store medicines in a safe place that is out of reach of children.
  • Take precautions when managing or storing your medicines to avoid potentially dangerous mix-ups.
  • Remind yourself when to take your medicines by writing a note, or setting an alarm or reminder on your phone.
  • Talk to your GP about having a pharmacist carry out a home medicines review. This can help ensure you take all your medicines safely.
  • Check the expiry dates of medicines. If they are near or past their expiry, see your doctor for a new prescription.
  • Take expired medicines or any that are no longer needed to the pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • Check with your health care team whether it’s safe to take complementary therapies, such as nutritional supplements, with your pain medicine.
  • Find out more about your medicines by calling the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line on 1300 633 424.
  • Let your health care team know of any side effects. Call the Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237 if you suspect you’ve had a reaction to any kind of medicine. If you need urgent assistance, call 000 or go to a hospital emergency department.

Travelling with medicines

It’s possible to take prescription medicines overseas for your own personal use, but it’s best to follow the Australian government’s recommendations. As these may change from time to time, check the current recommendations and restrictions before you travel at TravelSECURE.

A reasonable amount of medicine and medical equipment is allowed under powder, liquid, aerosol and gel restrictions in carry-on baggage. Have any medicines you need during the flight ready for screening at the airport. Pack the rest of your medicines in your checked baggage.

To help you prepare for travelling with medicines:

  • ask your doctor if you need to change your medicine schedule to allow for time differences and if there are limits on the amount of medicines you can take overseas
  • check with the embassies of the countries you’re visiting and with the travel advice at smarttraveller.gov.au to make sure your medicine is legal there
  • make sure you have enough medicines to cover the whole time you’re away, and pack a few extra doses in case you are delayed
  • carry a letter from your doctor outlining each medicine, how much you’ll be taking, and any equipment such as hypodermic needles or gel packs, and stating that the medicine is for your personal use
  • keep medicines in their original packaging so they can be easily identified, and make sure the name on the medicines matches the name on the passport
  • call the Travelling with PBS Medicines Enquiry Line on 1800 500 147 for more information.

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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in September 2018
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