Prescription for Codeine Required in 2018

After the 1st of February 2018, all medicines containing codeine will no longer be available from pharmacies. The reasoning behind this decision has been stated as the potential risk of codeine tolerance, dependence, poisoning and even death (in high doses).  

Medicine tablets


Codeine is an opioid drug which is similar to morphine, with a high health risk of developing tolerance or physical dependence. When tolerance occurs, codeine becomes less effective, and the body needs higher doses to create the same effect. Once dependence has occurred, discontinuing use of codeine can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as head and muscle aches, insomnia, diarrhea, mood swings and nausea. Because some of these symptoms feel similar to the symptoms over-the-counter codeine products are used to treat, people can misjudge and continue taking codeine products in higher or longer doses.

 Additionally, over-the-counter codeine products are usually combined with paracetamol or ibuprofen, which can cause bodily damage from extended and high dose use. The problem arises when consumers use too much codeine (and develop an addiction) which exacerbates the problems associated with the severe adverse effects that may result from long term and high dose use of ibuprofen. These can include serious internal bleeding, kidney failure and heart attack. Long term and/or high doses of paracetamol can result in liver damage.

If you experience chronic pain and currently use over-the-counter medication containing codeine, we recommend that you speak with your GP to work out the best pain management plan for you. Alternative options may include using different over-the-counter or prescription medicines, non-medicine therapies from an allied health professional such as a physiotherapist, self-management tools such as exercise and relaxation, or referral on to a pain specialist or pain management clinic.

Additionally, you can speak to your doctor about Medicare-funded care plans which include a rebate for treatment from an allied health professional. You can access more information about these plans at:

You can access a Government Consumer Fact Sheet about the codeine rescheduling changes at:


The Australian Pain Management Association Ltd. (APMA) is a health promotion charity providing advocacy, information and practical support for people living with chronic (persistent) pain and their families. APMA is the consumer health organisation for all Australians who live with pain. APMA is your voice.


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Australian Pain Management Association Ltd. (APMA)Victory Offices
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