Codeine dependency – is it more common than we think?

Codeine-containing medicines will become prescription only from next week. An editorial in Australian Prescriber explains that this change was made because of increasing concerns about codeine dependency in Australia.

Clinical pharmacologist Darren Roberts and senior research fellow Suzanne Nielsen write that it is possible that people with codeine dependency will emerge months after the change if they have been stockpiling the drugs.

“Australian data show that the typical codeine user is well-educated and employed, and that codeine dependency is a largely hidden problem,” they write.

“People with substance disorders are not always readily identified by stereotyped external features or behaviours. They are often hesitant to disclose substance use, if indeed they acknowledge that their use is problematic.”

Up to now these people have been able to obtain codeine from pharmacies without a prescription, so they are likely to present themselves to GPs once their supplies have run out.

If someone feels they may be dependent on codeine, it is important they discuss their concerns with a health professional.

Read the full article. 


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Eve Hanks
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Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals. It is published by NPS MedicineWise, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. Australian Prescriber is published every two months and is available online at