100 days of Codom

In a decision which is made to appear to have been made entirely bureaucratically, compound medicines containing codeine are to be withdrawn from over-the-counter (OTC) sale at the end of January next year.  It’s called “rescheduling.”

This has been a long-time coming.  It was first foreshadowed in 2015 to happen at the end of last year (or was it even to be the end of 2015?).  Then it was not the anquish of the chronic pain sufferers (or even opiod addicts) which stayed the government’s hand.  No, it was the interests of the Tasmanian opium poppy industry.  Money talks.  The special electoral advantage of Tasmanians probably also helped.

We’ve been being softened-up for this decision for a while.  A specialty of this has been the lurid stories of codeine addiction and fatalities.  We hear of people swallowing 100 codeine-containing compound medicine pills a day. These are extreme cases. If it’s codeine with paracetamol they will usually destroy their livers.

If only the codeine were not laced with that dangerous paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory things would be much better for these people.  Just saying – that’s a path we are never going to be able to go down.

Chronic pain sufferers are told that they should redirect themselves to non-pharmaceutical therapies – fine if they are available but, like physiotherapy and dentistry, there is no reliable promise of their availability.  It is said they should see their doctors for alternative solutions.  Good luck with that, especially in the bush.

The point is made that, because codeine is addictive, it is not really a good treatment for chronic pain.  That’s not because of the dependence, but because with dependence comes habituation and reduced efficacy.  But there must be many who take such medication not for chronic pain but for intermittent acute periods of otherwise chronically painful conditions.

A couple of years ago I had a very painful knee condition and then perhaps I was on the cusp of addiction.  If so, I was, as it happens, able to draw back quite easily as the condition improved, though there has been the odd recurrence.  So I don’t think I’m quite a codeine addict or at least not yet.  I can go for weeks without taking a single tablet or even thinking of doing so.

I do find though that I have occasional return of pain from which I desire relief.  The pain is exacerbated by proximity to an open pharmacy and contemplation of the day to come when the codeinicious counter will be bare.  By my reckoning, there are 100 days to go until that day.

One day I will have to do without, but, as St Augustine said, not yet!


One Response to “100 days of Codom”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Interesting summary of the changes. I have occasionally been taking codeine for back pain, much as you describe for your knee problem. I have an addictive nature and I very cautious with them. Physiotherapy helps me, but at $90 per visit, that is not sustainable. Slowly my bulging disc is healing, but it is taking a long time. I don’t really have an issue with it being prescribed by a doctor. My doctor would do so for me. But then it costs me about $35 to see my doctor, so I would include it with a visit for other matters.

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