Understanding the codeine ban

Published

February 1, 2018

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From 1 February 2018, medicines containing codeine will no longer be available without a prescription. Pharmacies will no longer sell codeine based medicines over-the-counter after this date.These changes include medicines such as:

  • Combination pain relief products trading under names such as Panadeine, Nurofen Plus, Mersyndol and generic pain relief medications
  • Some cold & flu products and some cough medicines
  • Generic pharmacy medicines containing codeine.

What is codeine and why have these changes come about?

Codeine is an opioid drug commonly used for pain relief. When used regularly, people can develop a tolerance, and need to take more to get the same effect. Dependence can develop with regular use.

The decision to make codeine available only through prescription was made by Australia’s medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), after community consultation and reviewing the evidence of the harm associated with overuse of codeine including dependence and overdose risk.

What will this mean for you?

People use pain relief for many reasons and many use codeine. We want to help you with any changes you may need to make.

If you are using lower levels of codeine, talk to your Pharmacist or General Practitioner as a first port of call. They can discuss alternative medicines available.

If you have been using larger amounts of codeine, you may be worried about withdrawal symptoms as you cut back or cease use. These might include craving, restlessness, irritability, sleeplessness, nausea and diarrhoea. If you experience these symptoms, or would like further advice about withdrawal, we suggest you seek advice from your General Practitioner or a local Alcohol and other Drug treatment provider about what support is available.

Sources of further information and support

Government Codeine Information Hub
Directline (VIC)
Alcohol and Drug Information Service (TAS)
ReGen-Odyssey House North and West Metro AOD Service (VIC)
Uniting Ballarat (VIC)
Uniting Wimmera (VIC)
Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service
Medication Support and Recovery Services (VIC)

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