This over-the-counter med has had double the overdoses in the last decade 116



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It’s one of the most popular painkillers and many of us have it in our house. But new statistics show overdoses from this drug have doubled in the last decade.

According to a study published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, the rate of codeine-related deaths in Australia more than doubled between 2000 and 2009.

Why is this happening? Well, it is a sad consequence of people taking too many pills or taking the drug with stronger pain meds.

Just last week there was debate over whether codeine should even be sold over the counter at pharmacies, and this strengthens the cause to make it prescription-only.

The study showed that 48.8 per cent of 1437 deaths examined were due to accidental overdose while 34.7 per cent were intentional self-harm.

Researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW found the rate of codeine-related deaths increased from 3.5 per million population to 8.7 per million population in the past decade, reports The Australian.

The researchers want better screening of patients who may be at risk of harming themselves and better information provided to those who purchase codeine.

The Australian Medical Association said it backed the TGA to make an appropriate decision on whether to make codeine a prescription-only medication.

“One of the issues about the use of codeine is that it should only be used, if over-the-counter, for short-term pain relief, and yet it appears from the evidence that it’s used for longer term relief,” AMA vice-president Dr Stephen Parnis told the ABC’s AM program.

The Pharmacy Guild says these kinds of medicines come in handy for patients, which is absolutely true – you can only imagine how much harder it will be to get a doctor’s appointment now.

“The majority of people do use these quite safely and wisely,” guild president George Tambassis told AM.


So, given this information, will you be more wary of the medications you take? Do you have codeine in your house?




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  1. You can’t wrap us in cotton wool, people should be able to decide if they need over the counter medication or not. How many deaths are alchohol related ? I don’t see them banning it . Australia has become the nanny state

    7 REPLY
    • They will putting us all in Green and gold uniforms soon and we all marching to the same tune, they are robbing us of all freedom of choice

    • Yet they can’t control marijuana so they want to legalise it. Too hard basket apparently. BTW, I’m not talking about medical marijuana here

    • We should be able to decide ourselves if we need this medication and have the sense not to exceed the recommended dose. Even with prescription medication some people don’t comply with the recommended dosage

  2. How to increase medical costs unnecessarily, make us go to the doctor for a prescription for something we never needed to before. It should only be available from a pharmacy. What’s happened to pharmacists talking to the purchaser about the risks. I used to take tablets for migraines and often had the pharmacist warn me of the dangers.

    1 REPLY
    • Yeh if they do this they will put a glut on the Medicare System, then something else will be taken, why do Politicians not look at the big picture, i am sure they only see $$$ of their income!!!

  3. It is important to consider the downside of restrictions on codeine over-the counter medicines. Doctors have a vested interest in making medicines prescription only. Thousands and thousands of older Australians are managing chronic pain with over-the counter medicines. The cost to the budget (and to the pockets of older Australians who must find the significant gap between the Medicare rebate and what the doctor charges) will be significant. There must be a significant reason to make any treatment prescription only.

  4. I think that making these medicines prescriptions only is just not functional. It is hard enough to get an appointment with a doctor now, this would only make that situation worse. I thought they were talking about real time monitoring? To me this seems the best solution to keep track of people abusing this drug. Of course I don’t know how feasible it is to set this up.

    1 REPLY
    • I agree, if I had severe pain now that just required pain killers I would have to wait at least 2 weeks to get an appointment with my Doctor. Maybe I would just have to go to the Emergency Department at the local hospital instead, that would certainly place another burden on the health system wouldn’t it. Stupid idea I think.

  5. I suffer from Fibromyalgia – among other pain related health issues. After trying many different pain killers and suffering their
    side effects, I came to the conclusion that panadeine forte was the safest and had the least side effects for me. Actually, I dont have any side effects from panadeine forte. I have been taking them for almost thirty years – taking them responsibly.
    The statistics above are for people who have over dosed or taken them irresponsibly. Every prescription drug is dangerous if you over dose on them or take them irresponsibly. On a separate note – Australia is becoming a place where the freedom of the population is slowly being taken away and we are being forced to live how the government wants us to live – in a controllable way. Nanny state? No, I think far far worse………..

  6. It would be very rare for me to take anything for pain other than maybe a Panadol from time to time. After having a total knee replacement the specialist had me on some pretty heavy stuff – Endone and OxyContin – and I made sure I got off it pretty quick not long after I was discharged from hospital. I loathe having to take any medication.

    5 REPLY
    • Same for me Helen, but instead of morphine based I opted for codeine based if pain was too severe. At the moment it is only Panadol for me

    • Likewise, Helen. I broke my ankle recently and was sent home with a prescription for Endone. I took it for the first couple of nights – when the pain was fairly severe. Yes, it lessened the pain but after 3 doses of two tablets, I was experiencing severe constipation! From then on, I just stuck with the occasional ‘Aspro Clear’.

    • Yes, Sue. I know all about the constipation that comes with a lot of these pain killing tablets. I am not sure which is worse.

    • Sadly I get the ‘blockage’ issue with a Nurophen Plus or any over the counter med that has codeine. I tried an endone once. I lasted 18 mins before head spins and vomiting which continued on for another two and a half hours. Never again!

  7. Went to Switzerland recently, and it is prescription only for this type of medicine

    1 REPLY
    • It was not so long ago that an Aussie was arrested in Greece for bringing in a partly used pack in his toilettries bag when he went for a holiday. Lots of countries ban codiene.

  8. The question posed was ‘Will these latest shocking findings make you think twice before taking it again?’ Well, I’ve ALWAYS questioned any medication that I take – whether it be ‘over the counter’ or prescribed by my doctor! Truth is, we’ve become a society of ‘pill poppers’, never questioning the side effects – just taking that pill because ‘it will help’. A lot of the time, they don’t ‘help’ – they just give us other symptoms to concern us. Whatever medication you take, always question it’s benefits; know what you are taking and make the choice if it’s right for you.

  9. Many more people die as the end result of cigarettes and alcohol. They need to be on prescription before over the counter pain killers.
    “The researchers want better screening of patients who may be at risk of harming themselves”
    I wonder how many of these deliberate deaths were from people just like you and me who had no other options in a way to quickly end a terminal cancer – or even just terminal old age.

  10. It would be interesting to know whether the probable self inflicted deaths were related to dying with dignity. As we are denied the right to an assisted death then I am sure that some people would use such a strong medication to help achieve the end themselves.

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