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Is your workforce “soldiering on” through colds, flu and pain with products that contain codeine?
From 1 Feb 2018 they’ll need a prescription for over-the-counter medicines containing codeine. This has implications for organisations who conduct drug and alcohol testing and for industries and occupations where a worker could kill or seriously injure themselves, another worker or a member of the public.
Have you updated your workforce regarding the change?
Has it been discussed at Toolbox talks?
What is codeine ?
Codeine is the most common form of the opiate (morphine-like) class of drugs, a narcotic used to treat pain by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It is used in common over-the-counter pain relievers.
Effects include drowsiness, confusion, erratic behaviour, tiredness, poor concentration, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, and sweating. Side effects of Codeine can seriously impact Workplace Health & Safety, especially for jobs that involve driving, machinery and high risk work.
Why is codeine now prescription only ?
Codeine is recognised as a drug of dependency by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This is based on the evidence of harm caused by overuse and abuse of medicines – and that medicines containing codeine for pain relief offered very little additional benefit when compared to similar medicines without codeine. Thus codeine products have become prescription only.
What do the changes to codeine mean and what should your company do?
Given codeine has been in so many over-the-counter medications people may have used every day over a long period, there is a strong need to educate your workforce from a duty-of-care perspective.
Let your people know
Make people aware of the full list of codeine-based products previously available over-the-counter, which from 1 February 2018 requires them to have a prescription from a doctor. View the list on the right, and see what the common brand names are.
Update your company policy
Depending on your company policy, people using codeine medications may be required to obtain a letter of verification that the use is not of a dependent nature, even if it was purchased before the cut-off date. This would be something to explore quickly, given the change is already in force.
Make people aware of the withdrawal symptoms and where to find help
It is important to be aware of codeine withdrawal symptoms. Without a prescription, some people may run out and suddenly stop taking it which may cause withdrawal symptoms.
Let your people know that if they are withdrawing from codeine, they should seek medical advice, as some of the common symptoms start within a few hours after the last dose and become strongest between 48 and 72 hours.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Cravings for codeine
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- A runny nose and sneezing
- Yawning and difficulty sleeping
- Trembling, aching muscles and joints
- Goosebumps, fever, chills, sweating
- Restlessness, irritability, nervousness, depression
For those organisations who conduct drug testing, it is important for you to advise your employees they now require a prescription for any medication containing codeine. Failure to provide a prescription if codeine is found in their system will be in breech of policy. You may wish to seek out an expert to help you revise your organisational Drug and Alcohol Policy and educate and inform your workforce.
The easiest and most effective way to deliver this to the workforce is is via an effective Toolbox Talk or Lunch and Learn where you explain the change to codeine use and your company policy, including the implications for a breech.
Safety Dimensions can help you with communicating safety messages effectively through either consultancy or our courses, both accredited and non-accredited. Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 1300 453 555.
Need training in communicating safety messages to your people?
Check out our programs below to help you communicate more effectively like our Effective Safety Consultation Program.
Email us on email@example.com or contact 1300 453 555.
Codeine may also be known by a brand or trade name. Some of these common brands are:
Generic Name / Brand names
Aspirin and codeine / Aspalgin®, Codral Cold & Flu Original®
Ibuprofen and codeine / Nurofen Plus®
Paracetamol and codeine / Panadeine Forte®, Panamax Co®
Paracetamol, codeine and doxylamine / Mersyndol® and Mersyndol Forte®, Panalgesic®1
More about withdrawal from codeine visit:
Australian Pain Management Association
Ask Your Pharmacist:
Pain Link Helpline – 1300 340 357
Therapeutic Goods Association https://www.tga.gov.au/codeine-info-hub
Alcohol and Drug Foundation: https://adf.org.au/help-support/support-services-directory/
Safe Work Australia https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/drugs-alcohol
Arisk Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1uG9Gyf-3U
Want to elevate your Toolbox Talks?
Effective Safety Consultation Program
This program focuses on helping participants generate genuine two-way communication.
Get the skills to:
- Conduct effective and engaging Toolbox Talks, Pre-Start and safety meetings
- Gain employees’ and team members’ attention and get them motivated about safety
- Learn how to overcome potential barriers to achieve engaged participation
- Ensure others don’t just hear, but understand safety messages
- Show confidence as a communicator and leader
- Apply effective consultation skills to all meetings
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