Codeine containing medications will require a prescription from 1st February. The three main reasons given by the Therapeutic Goods Association are:

1. long term regular use of codeine can cause serious harm

2. codeine is not a very effective pain relief for some people

3. there are safer and better alternatives to use if needed

Codeine is an active ingredient in many over-the-counter medicines, such as Panadeine, Nurofen Plus and Mersyndol and many generic products including many cough relief products such as Codral and Demazin. As announced by the Therapeutic Goods Administration from 1st February all medicines containing codeine will require a prescription. Australia is not alone in making these changes, countries in Europe including Austria, Belgium, Germany and Italy, the United States, Japan and Russia all require prescriptions for medicines containing codeine.

Medical and scientific evidence has demonstrated low dose codeine provides little additional benefit when compared to  medicines without codeine, however, codeine has associated health risks. Twenty to thirty percent of people experience side effects associated with opioid medication such as codeine, due to differences in metabolism. These include nausea, constipation, dizziness, sleepiness, headaches and even breathing difficulties

It is possible to become dependent on codeine-based products without realising it as the body develops tolerance, which lessens the effectiveness and means a higher dose is required for pain relief. There are severe withdrawal symptoms when the medication is stopped including headaches and muscle aches, nausea, insomnia and mood swings .

Codeine is associated with accidental and intentional deaths in Australia, with long term use of the combined preparations containing paracetamol and ibuprofen being associated with liver damage and even internal bleeding, kidney failure and heart attack

There are over-the-counter medicines without codeine that can help to manage acute pain or cough and cold symptoms such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

If you have ongoing pain, talk to your GP to find out about alternative treatment options, which may include non medicine treatments such as physiotherapy, self-management tools, such as exercise or meditation or referral to a pain specialist or pain clinic.


  • the,  for the Codeine Information Hub
  • scriptwise for information on support available for yourself or a loved one who might be suffering from prescription medication misuse/addiction and their Community Toolkit for alternative treatment options for common problems
  •, a website developed though the Department of Health, Curtin University, the University of Western Australia and the Musculoskeletal Health Network to help consumers with musculoskeletal pain access reliable and usable evidence-informed information and skills to assist in the management of pain



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