"This is going to make me look like a druggie"

IT WOULD seem an effective way of upsetting many Australians is restricting their access to codeine.

News broke this morning that medicines containing codeine will require a prescription from 2018 amid ongoing concerns about overuse and abuse of the pain killer.

News.com.au posted the story on our Facebook page and the comments were swift and passionate, with people declaring that Australia was increasingly becoming a "nanny state".

"How bloody stupid," wrote the first commenter.

"Because a section of the community abuses these, everyone else is penalised ... it won't stop addicts getting it.....nothing stops an addict."

"This is ridiculous!" wrote another woman.

"There goes me having a migraine and sitting in a doctors office for hours (which will make it worse) and it's not like you can get an appointment that quickly anyway.

"This is going to make me look like a druggie because I'm going to stock up right before it changes to at least give me a year worth of relief. Absolutely ridiculous. They should introduce the system that they use for the cold and flu tablets where you give them your licence not make it prescription."

Many people were concerned about the inconvenience of having to go to the doctor's office for a script:

"I have chronic pain and live and work in outback of WA - there are no doctors, my doctor is five hours away. Yep great [those who] need it once again suffer at the hands of the government poor choices get ready for more break ins and black market sales."

While most commenters found the decision "utterly ridiculous," some people were in favour.

"I'm all for it. Too easy to self medicate then over medicate," wrote one commenter.

"Some people don't even realise they're doing it. Start taking it for legitimate reasons then add in any other pain and it's being taken for everything. For chronic and recurring conditions including migraines, wouldn't you be under a doctor anyway, for pain management or to find a cause for prevention?"

Codeine addiction is deemed an increasing problem in Australia.
Codeine addiction is deemed an increasing problem in Australia. News Limited

The decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to cease the sale of products with codeine over the counter from February 2018 came after they were swamped with submissions on the proposal.

The regulator said it had taken in consideration that the US, most of Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and UAE had already stopped the sale of codeine products without a script.

"Consumers frequently became addicted to codeine," a TGA statement said.

"Misuse of OTC [over-the-counter] codeine products contributes to severe health outcomes including liver damage, stomach ulceration, respiratory depression and death."

The TGA said the 2018 start date would allow consumers to discuss treatment options with their doctors.
In making this decision, the TGA decision took into consideration compelling evidence of the harm caused by overuse and abuse of OTC codeine containing medicines.

One study showed addiction risk "seems to increase with higher 'morphine equivalent' doses", and respiratory depression can occur after brief exposure to standard codeine doses [not defined] in ultrarapid metabolises.

Its public consultations indicated many consumers use low-dose codeine medicines to self-treat chronic pain, even though they are not intended for long-term conditions.

"This meant that consumers frequently became addicted to codeine," it said.

The TGA noted codeine has variable analgesic efficacy with little effect in some patients and others at risk of overdose. It is also subject to drug interactions which can increase the risk of overdose or reduce the efficacy of the drug, and when used for a long period all opioids can cause a withdrawal syndrome.

The change will begin on February 1, 2018.

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