Response to opinion piece in the Australian - Hunt’s codeine crackdown will do nothing but increase pain for all

Jessica Borbasi misrepresents the dangers of codeine use and the reality that these medicines are being abused (“Hunt’s codeine crackdown will do nothing but increase pain for all”, 30/10).

She says the plan to upschedule codeine is not “consumer-oriented” and “lacks patient-centred care”.

Upscheduling codeine is all about protecting patients. As doctors, we see the consequences of these products being so freely available. Codeine is closely related to morphine and, like morphine, is derived from opium poppies.

It often results in opioid tolerance, addiction, poisoning and, in high doses, can cause death. What seems to be lost on those seeking to maintain the status quo is the evidence that shows low-dose codeine offers little, if anything for most people.

We know upscheduling will inconvenience some people. But this has been weighed against the fact that this change could avoid further opioid addictions; reduce other medical harms associated with these medicines and save lives.

Education is a part of the solution. We need to understand why access should be restricted and why we can’t allow an environment where consumers can purchase and consume whatever products they like. To do so means they will also bear the full costs, including premature death.

Associate Professor Adrian Reynolds
President of the Chapter of Addiction Medicine
Royal Australasian College of Physicians
University of Tasmania
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