THE head of the Western Region Alcohol and other Drug Centre (WRAD) says codeine addiction can cause physical and worrying psychological effects.
The comments come after the state government announced the rollout of Australia’s first large scale real-time prescription monitoring system aimed at reducing the growing harms from prescription medications, including codeine.
Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said the laws, which will come into effect on July 2, would pave the way for data to be collected so that when SafeScript went live later this year, doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists had access to quick information on the prescription histories of their patients.
Codeine would also be included on the list of medicines to be monitored by SafeScript from the start, instead of being added later.
Codeine has been a factor in more overdose deaths in Victoria than any other opioid painkillers over the past eight years and more people in the state have lost their lives from prescription medicines than the road toll for five years in a row.
WRAD director Geoff Soma said one of the reasons codeine was no longer available over the counter was because it was obvious some people had built up a tolerance for it and were becoming dependent.
He said addiction to medication like codeine was seriously problematic and required appropriate treatment.
He said by having codeine listed on SafeScript it would help prevent people doctor shopping to support their addiction.
Mr Soma said there were some physical effects and there were certainly psychological issues from an addiction to medication like codeine. “If they’re using it for a long period of time they might feel that they can’t cope without it,” he said.
Ms Hennessy said too many Victorians had died from the misuse of prescription medicines.
“This is an avoidable tragedy and that’s why we’re getting SafeScript done to fix it,” she said.
“The misuse of codeine can have devastating consequences so we’re giving clinicians the resources they need to monitor patient use and save lives.”
SafeScript will become available for use by clinicians in October with the initial focus on the Western Victoria Primary Health Network catchment area.