PSA resource on OTC codeine overuse

white capsules, that resemble OMG Slim capsules

The PSA has produced a leaflet as one of its resources developed in response to increasing reports about the damaging effects of overuse of readily available pain relievers containing codeine.

The leaflet is a useful tool to assist pharmacists to discuss appropriate pain management solutions with consumers, says national president Grant Kardachi.

Medicines containing codeine are pharmacist-only medicines and this means pharmacists are required to meet legislative requirements as well as professional obligations in ensuring the supply of codeine-containing analgesics is safe and appropriate in each case.

The leaflet alerting consumers to the dangers of inappropriate use of combination codeine pain relievers has been developed by the PSA.

The leaflet, titled Using codeine pain relievers safely, explains the possible adverse effects of the inappropriate use of over-the-counter analgesics containing codeine and gives consumers a checklist of signs of codeine dependence.

These signs include:

  • Taking the pain relievers on days when you don’t have any pain.
  • Needing to take more than the recommended dose.
  • Needing to take the pain relievers for longer than recommended on the pack.
  • Suffering codeine withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking codeine (feeling restless or irritable, anxiety, yawning, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, sweating, goose bumps, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and disturbed sleep).

Non-prescription codeine products also contain paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin. Consumers are warned that taking paracetamol in higher-than-recommended doses can damage the liver, potentially fatally.

Taking ibuprofen or aspirin in higher‑than-recommended doses can cause gastro-intestinal system and kidney damage, and these also can be fatal. The packaging of non-prescription codeine containing medicines may also contain a new warning label reading: For 3 days use only, can cause addiction.

The codeine leaflets are available in pads of 100 and are being distributed to Self Care subscribers with this month’s edition of inPHARMation. It will also be distributed to pharmacy owner members of PSA.

Additional pads of leaflets are available for all pharmacists to purchase from the PSA Bookshop.

The leaflet is available for PSA members to download on the PSA website.

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