Moves are afoot in National’s “War on Drugs” to restrict the sale of codeine in all its forms, including the combinations with paracetamol (Panadeine, Codalgin et al.). The Herald reports:
Public access to a widely-used class of painkillers containing codeine is likely to be restricted within months because of what is said to be an increase in the rate of addiction to the opium-linked drug.
The recommendations of a Government advisory committee on the painkillers mirror the controls on pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in many cough and cold medicines, and also a precursor of the illegal drug P.
This is not strictly accurate reporting. Although no legislation has been passed, the proposed legislation for pseudoephedrine is far tougher than the legislation proposed for codeine. Pseudoephedrine is supposedly only going to be available on a controlled drug script. No clicking on a couple of buttons and printing a script. The GP has to go to the safe in which the controlled drug scripts (which are numbered) are kept. He has to write the script out in long-hand (remember doctor’s handwriting, anyone?) and give three copies to the patient. He can prescribe no more than a months supply. Contrast this to codeine which is merely to be kept in the pharmacy area and dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription (as long as it is in combination with another product).
Now some comparison facts.
Pseudoephedrine can be made into a noxious drug called Methamphetamine (“P”, “Meth”). It is difficult to extract from a combination product and requires a full laboratory. By-products of its conversion to methamphetamine are noxious and explosive.
Codeine can be made into the most addictive, dangerous drug known to man, Heroin (“Smack”, “Diamorphine”). It is dead easy to separate from combination products. It requires little in the way of laboratory equipment and is quite easy and safe to make.
Would someone care to explain to me why it is acceptable to have codeine (a fairly useless painkiller) easily available and yet have pseudoephedrine (the only useful decongestant) nearly as inaccessible as the moon?
Of course, that is no less consistent than having alcohol and tobacco freely available from every store when they are both equally as dangerous as methamphetamine as this graph from the Lancet shown below demonstrates:
Note: This is physical harm to the user NOT cost to society.
Heroin comfortably sits just about off this chart.
But we are restricting access to flu tablets. Is it any wonder that we are losing the “War on Drugs”?