Codeine is a potentially addictive substance related to opium and commonly found in painkillers. It amplifies the effect of medications such as paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen.
Until now, pills containing less than 30mg of codeine were readily available over-the-counter. But many of these combination drugs will now only be available with a prescription. The Health Minister said the restriction was put in place to “end life-threatening addictions”.
The Health Minister references an increasingly popular cocktail, commonly named ‘Purple Drank’, as a cause of rising codeine addiction among young people. The drink consists of a codeine-base cough syrup mixed with a soft drink.
The ‘Purple Drank’ phenomenon was highlighted in a report by the French Observatory for Drugs. “The number of people taking drugs containing codeine has risen in the last ten years across all age groups. Since 2013, an alarming number of adolescents and young people have been using these drugs. We will be releasing figures related to ‘Purple Drank’ soon.”
Two teenagers died earlier this year due to the effects of ‘Purple Drank’, and 30 'serious cases' were reported in people under 25.
Australia has put in place a similar codeine restriction which will be effective from 2018.
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