1493469694175 - Damien Grant: Drug crackdown hard to swallow

Damien Grant: Drug crackdown hard to swallow

OPINION: Codeine. It’s a sweet opiate. I’ve found it especially helpful when grappling with a hangover.

It’s also recommended for migraines, cramps and any other number of minor ailments.

Currently we can buy this elixir over the counter from a pharmacist. On May 16, the Medicines Classification Committee is likely to recommend to the Minister of Health, Jonathan Coleman, that codeine based products become prescription only.

Codeine, like quadbikes, are sometimes used by idiots to hurt themselves. An Australian study published in 2015 found 113 deaths related solely to codeine toxicity over a 13-year period.

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At least 33 of these were suicides, leaving 80 unintentional deaths. Six per annum.

Frankly the data is as suspect as two-day old salmon and I think that the real number is a lot closer to zero but you can’t argue with published science.

In New Zealand that equates to one codeine death a year. Quadbike mortality runs to five. Medsafe has reported to Medicines Classification Committee on the perils of codeine.

They were unable to find any evidence of deaths attributable solely to the opiate. Instead they called a few ‘addiction specialists’, who “indicated that there were persistent problems with the abuse of Over The Counter codeine products”.

They also cited three local publications on the side effects of codeine but were forced to concede that under the status quo the scale of abuse is unclear.

Reading the Medsafe report and the seven mostly self-interested submissions on the subject I was struck with the banality of it all.

The level of research was pitiful and the analysis woeful. Yet with this lazy and inadequate inquiry millions will be denied ready access to safe and effective pain relief.

Codeine is restricted in Australia so it’s going to be restricted here despite almost the entire population at some stage using codeine responsibility and not a single dead junkie to be unearthed.

The stupidity is incomprehensible. Does Medsafe think that codeine freaks will have an epiphany and enrol in accounting now they need to see their GP ahead of getting a script?

Or is it more likely they will seek solace in other narcotics and bake their brains in new and creative ways?

The government, Dear Reader, is going to force you endure unnecessary pain in order to protect someone who desperately does not want and isn’t seeking protection.

And we voted for them.

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