Codeine withdrawal and dependence may be on the increase but better pain management treatments are available.
As of February 2018, codeine-based medications will no longer be available in Australia without a prescription. Already 25 other countries have restricted access to codeine as it is highly addictive and can cause hospitalisation, organ damage and even death if misused. When consumed, codeine can routinely converted to morphine in the body in order for it to be an effective painkiller. In one instance of codeine addiction, a person was taking 20 or more codeine-based tablets a day. Now pain management advocates are calling for safer and more effective approaches to pain control for Australians to replace over-the-counter codeine. Health experts estimate about one in five people could be dependant on low-dose, codeine-based preparations. Those high dependency rates were the main reason for restricting access to codeine but, with the restrictions now in place, many people may now be experiencing withdrawal. Some people may even not have been aware they have a problem and will also require support and help.
Australia’s leading national advocacy body Painaustralia say better pain management options need to be more readily available. Painaustralia chief executive Carol Bennett says that effective pain management requires more than just often it isn’t just a tablet.
“We know that codeine has proven to be ineffective in treating many chronic pain conditions and can also be addictive and harmful,” Ms. Bennett said. “If someone has ongoing pain the best way to manage it is with a combination of strategies that suit the individual’s personal situation. Physiotherapy, daily exercise, behavioural changes, and rethinking pain with the help of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are among the best pain management strategies.”
She said changes to codeine prescription won’t stop people who really require codeine from accessing it through proper diagnosis and prescription.
“However, we’re encouraging everyone to look into the best pain management for their situation – often it isn’t just a tablet. It’s important that people living with chronic pain are given all the options and are supported by their clinicians to be able to access the treatment that’s most appropriate for them.”
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