Our silent codeine 'epidemic'

By chillinwill · Jul 19, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    A married mother-of-two has told how she ate almost 100 Nurofen Plus tablets a day after becoming addicted to the codeine they contain.

    The 42-year-old said trawling the pharmacies of her hometown to avoid bulk buying at any one store became a "fulltime job".

    The addiction left her like a "zombie" and almost ruined her marriage. She is calling for awareness of the threat posed by the pills.

    Her revelations come as a medical expert reports a surge in the number of Kiwis addicted to strong over-the-counter pain relief known as codeine analgesics, mirroring trends in the UK.

    Capital and Coast Health chief medical officer Dr Geoff Robinson said the problem was a "silent epidemic" and called for mandatory monitoring by pharmacies.

    The Kiwi addict, who spoke on condition of anonymity, started taking Nurofen Plus five or six years ago to ease a pain in her leg that had remained undiagnosed for two decades.

    She initially followed recommended dose instructions but within two months she was up to two large packets - 96 tablets - a day.

    She said they gave her a "high", a "sense of wellbeing" and "quite a buzz".

    "It removed the pain from my leg but it also gave me a lot of energy. I could zoom around the house and do all the housework in 10 minutes. It gave me a great sense of euphoria."

    She realised she was addicted when she made repeat visits to the same pharmacies. She said it was a wonder she didn't die.

    "I used to look like a drug addict basically, because I was. I looked terrible. I had spots all over my face. I was a zombie, nothing ever got done.

    "I was so sick, I wasn't eating, I lost weight, I was sleeping all the time. I had bad stomach aches but they were probably ulcers. I couldn't go to the toilet, I was yellow and my skin was disgusting."

    She said she spent about $10,000 on the tablets.

    Although she realised she needed help, she felt "isolated", "alienated" and too ashamed to talk to a doctor, friends or even her husband.

    "I just hit rock bottom. I could hardly get off the couch, I would sleep all day. My husband and kids were away at work and school so they didn't know."

    She was eventually confronted by her mother and sister, and then her husband.

    "It was then I just broke down and said, 'yes, I do have a problem'. So we worked out how I was going to come off it."

    The woman was weaned off the tablets, but not before her addiction had a "devastating" impact on her family, with her husband set to take their children and leave her.

    "It took me about three or four gos to get off it. I would start coming off it and tell (my husband) I was doing really well, then I would end up sneaking extra tablets."

    Now working and running every day, she's been clean for about three years, takes no other drugs and has regular sessions with a counsellor arranged through Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS).

    Dr Robinson works in a medical detox unit within Capital and Coast Health and said he saw at least one Nurofen Plus addict a month.

    "The people we see are substantial addicts. They are taking up to 40 to 60 Nurofen Plus a day."

    Nurofen Plus and similar products contained other drugs such as ibuprofen which could cause bleeding from stomach ulcers and kidney and liver failure in high doses.

    "We have had a 20-year-old who had ulcers and needed a blood transfusion because they have bleeding in their stomachs but most [patients] are in their 40s."

    Dr Robinson said addicts travelled "considerable distances" to buy tablets from different shops.

    He urged codeine addicts to front up for appropriate treatment and called for greater monitoring by pharmacies.

    There was enough awareness about P, alcohol and cannabis, but codeine addiction was "a hidden and silent epidemic", said Dr Robinson.

    By Carolyne Meng-Yee
    July 19, 2009
    NZ Herald

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  1. nibble
    Wow, 20 grams of ibuprofen a day, it's a wonder she didn't die. If these had been paracetamol compouned pills she certainly would have.
  2. g666d
    Is funny, if she was DF educated probably could have avoided all the nasty side effects (CWE), and probably come to terms with her addiction faster (by talking about habits)

    Is one of my reasons for believing in legalization of drug use, the biggest harm is done when people are afraid to talk about their experiences, descisions and problems.

    Oxycontin's parent company got sued for mismarketing their pain relief as less addictive than morphine etc, reminiscent of heroin being marketed as cure for morphine addiction. Wonder why solution for OTC opiates is to add poisons to discourage overuse? rather than making codeine script only or pharmacist prescribed.
  3. Uncle Getafix
    NOTE: GENERIC DRUG NAMES: Panadeine Plus 500mg Paracetomol 12 mg codeine. Nurofen Plus 200 mg Ibuprofen plus 15mg codeine

    That was SWIMS replacement for his daily cannabis smoking. Not really a good replacement is it?

    SWIM didn't have the benefit of an awesome DF to get info and support from, I would hope to offer advice to others in these situations when SWIM can.
  4. nibble

    Panadeine plus conatins paracetamol! A CWE is absolutely neccessary, please do not ever ingest that much paracetamol! I can't stress this enough. Paracetamol is the number one cause of drug overdose in the UK, how has SWIY not overdosed on those huge quantities of paracetamol? Please look up paracetamol overdose, it is very, very serious.
  5. Uncle Getafix
    Frick the codeine bring the weed..

    Yup SWIM understands its not good for the liver, however SWIM is still tickety boo and does actually take this much every second day. SWIM still thinks it is an improvement on 2 packs of Nurofen Plus at 72 pills per pack(pretty sure its not 92 but could well be wrong).

    In New Zealand we have a binge culture, sort of a competition with Australia for ravaged alcoholics hehe.

    SWIM doesn't like to process as if the police come barrelling in, its another more serious charge than cannabis cultivation alone.

    SWIM is DEFINITELY NOT advocating taking Panadeine Plus or similiar without a CWE. SWIM is emerging from ten years where paracetomol is the least of your problems.

    In context, paracetomol is one of the most widely used and ineffective drugs to commit suicide in NZ. No one ends up dead, they just mulch their liver..off one pack!! And SWIM is taking two packs every second day.

    To be truthful, SWIM is swapping out the Panadeine Plus and diazepam for high grade cannabis. More fun and more effective.:thumbsup:
  6. g666d
    if swiy is paranoid swiy could do the whole process beside toilet or sink. I know when they raid they block your sewer line but i have a feeling they would have a hard time separating pill mush from the water.

    Some HCL or bleach in the toilet *might* (i don't know) destroy all illegals before they can isolate anyway.

    Process is easy to do and can be done with common items from around home.

    Swim understands swiys nervousness, but thinks personal health is more important than legal ramificatons.
  7. Uncle Getafix
    One could say SWIM wouldn't be worried if it was the only illegal process happening on the property.

    But yep its a silent epidemic in NZ, we will cane ALL drugs and the straight cats out there will deny any drug use but you know what..they fiends too!! All undercover. Legalise it. Everything.

    Peace out.
  8. bloot
    When posting, try giving the generic names of said drugs and in what amounts to rid confusion with people who are scattered among earth.
  9. Benniboi
    SWIUncle getafix, you should really heed the advice of other swimmers here and use CWE techniques because, even though you profess that your liver and kidneys are fine now, i'm sure that subjecting them to that sort of abuse 3 times a week will eventually result in kidney failure- however resilient the body has become to this kind of abuse over the course of many years. CWE is an easy and effective method of separating the codeine, it only takes like an hour and your body will thank you for it. good luck anyway mate
  10. Uncle Getafix
    Yes yes mum!! ;)SWIM will do a CWE next time, if there is a next time. As far as being healthily paranoid my kitten just wanted to point out that there is a realistic level of risk from police on the property, so SWIM did not want to spell it out for the police. New Zealand is a small place!!

    SWIM is more focused on harm reduction and education, along with loving the weed.

    To be perfectly honest, this was a very cool thread for my kitten. I've been looking at the CWE for a few years now, and just been..not another bloody chemical process/criminal charge.

    In getting back on topic it would be nice to disseminate this info to the NZ public who AREN'T using DF but ARE caning their kidneys with Nurofen Plus. There seem to be a lot of them.

    My kitten thanks you for your concern.:thumbsup:
  11. anonuser30500
    Uncle Getafix - glad to see you survived all that pill popping.

    If you go to the codeine forum you'll read all you need to know there and will get sound advice from people who've been there and done that and wore the t shirt, not the body bag!
  12. Uncle Getafix
    Yes thanks Mum I've been lurking in DF for a few years now and have already done the CWE research. Thankyou for your concern again.
  13. Routemaster Flash
    In fairness, ibuprofen and paracetamol are not poisonous when used at the recommended dose, and are added to pills containing codeine because the pain-killing effects of the two drugs synergise, providing better relief that either drug individually.

    They may well be added to try and stop people abusing them as well - but there is certainly a legitimate medical reason for it.
  14. g666d
    Swim was more alluding to the convicted guilt of the people manufacturing and selling these drugs. Swim doesn't know too much about that issue, though, just couple of articles.

    Swim supposes that if he had any friends they probably would be convicted criminals too, if all their actions were brought to light, so swim actually doesn't really know what to make of the oxycontin* court case(s). The judge said some nasty things in sentencing.
    *purdue pharma

    Lol, swim was reading some posts last night and thinking, man, this guy getafix keeps talking about must be twin from pararell universe... swim didn't want to go into it either but, yes, swim had a dream once he was in place like that,
    looked around at all the jars n filters n alcohol, thought "what a mess, glad no-one here to see it"

    Lol swim likes DF immensley but still doesn't feel comfortable talking about his own experiences, just first person story's his friends have told him about mainly (ideally).

    Swim found out about CWE through google, swim had been told that you could break panadeine plus in half and one side would be codeine and the other apap (untrue, now). Searching for that lead to CWE teks, not on this site though. Swim made sure to read many different versions, but this wasn't what convinced him, swim didn't find any reports of people dieing from apap after doing CWE.

    Swim is the kind of person that uses google as a spell checker though, swim thinks that the CWE process is so easy you can simply describe it to someone and they can go away and do an effective job. Swim says nz so small probably just word of mouth will do it (go outside and yell CWE procedure once to the left and once to the right :laugh:)

    pity swim is such a stereotypical antisocial bastard druggie and won't be able help much in spreading the knowledge, as he has no friends only his addictions lolz
  15. Uncle Getafix
    Mate you could be an aussie!!

    Hey man SWIY is still a person and a New Zealander to boot. It could be worse..SWIY could be Australian haha!!:thumbsup:

    Have a cool week.:cool:
  16. g666d
    lol, swim was wondering how people would take that. swim was kinda joking about stereotypes mostly about how everyday people might see you if you bring up CWE at the dinner table or bar :laugh:

    swim has been to australia... he came back :cool:
  17. Routemaster Flash
    I'm not sure I get you. Are you saying it's irresponsible for pharmacies to be allowed to sell codeine to someone without a prescription? Bear in mind that codeine is a pretty weak opiate in the long run and is used mainly for treating 'mild to moderate pain' - fever due to a cold, a sprained ankle, headaches, that sort of thing. It would be extremely inconvenient if you had to go to a doctor for a script every time you got a headache!
  18. missparkles
    Swim believes it's important to educate the (unknowing) public to the dangers of OTC meds.
    But the stigma of addiction, and the subsequent stereotyping makes people fearful about being honest. Even the addicted lady in the OPs article has that same perception of addicts, talk about delicious irony ;)
    Swim is glad that unclegetafix (swim loves that name) is ok. Paracetamol is nasty stuff and highly dangerous when taken in large amounts, for lots of people. An overdose with Paracetamol is not apparent until it's almost too late to reverse the situation. Even then it's not always possible.
  19. Routemaster Flash
    But in the UK (dunno about NZ) every packet of off-prescription codeine and dihydrocodeine pills I've ever seen has a warning on the packet not to use them for too long in one stretch, and actually states that they can be addictive. I would certainly hope that stronger pain meds prescribed by a doctor would come with a no-uncertain-terms verbal warning about long-term use. Is this the case? I've fortunately never had to have a prescription for painkillers, so I don't know.

    You're dead right about the stigma of addiction, though. Anything that prevents people seeking help when they need it is a bad thing, because the longer a situation like that goes on for the worse it's probably going to get.
  20. nibble
    They do, and any fit GP or pain specialist would make that clear too.
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