Codeine-Based Pain Relievers and Chronic Pain Management

January 3rd 2018

Why is codeine no longer available without a prescription?

From 1 February 2018, medicines that contain low-dose codeine will no longer be available from
pharmacies without a prescription. Medical experts have considered the evidence and have decided that codeine should always be used with the supervision of a doctor. Reasons for this include:

  • Codeine is converted to morphine and it is the morphine that provides pain relief. However, the conversion of codeine to morphine is variable:
    • Some people cannot convert it and so feel no or little additional pain relief.
    • Some people convert it very quickly and are at higher risk of side effects.
  • Codeine use is not without risk. Some people become addicted to codeine without realising it.
  • Codeine was being used by some people to self-manage chronic pain. This is not ideal and people with chronic pain should be assessed by their doctor to help improve their care.

Chronic pain management

Chronic or long-lasting pain can be more complex than acute or 'standard' short-lasting pain.  Unfortunately, it may not be possible to cure chronic pain, but what can often be achieved
is to reduce the severity of chronic pain and find new ways to help you cope and function.

Best results in chronic pain management usually are achieved when:

  • A combination of therapies are used together, including the use of medicines and non-medication therapies.
  • The person with chronic pain is actively involved in helping themselves, such as doing exercise, physiotherapy, losing weight or learning new skills such as how to relax.
  • Long-acting pain relievers (analgesics) are used to help relieve chronic pain.

Codeine is a short-acting analgesic and it generally should be not be used for managing chronic pain. Your doctor may recommend managing your pain with different pain relievers to improve how you feel and to increase your ability to function.

For more information please visit the Codeine Info Hub.

Come in and speak to the experienced Pharmacists at Campbell & Freebairn. We are only too happy to help.