One chemist’s thoughts on the great codeine rush of 2018

With codeine set to come off the shelves tomorrow, I’ve witnessed people brazenly stockpile these products. Yes, it’s a ban. But it’s for your own good.



I’m a chemist at your very standard neighbourhood pharmacy. I won’t have to tell you which one, because it doesn’t matter. We’ve all seen the same thing. And it has to do with the reclassification of codeine, official tomorrow. Which means you’ll need a prescription. Now, that’s sound in application. On a larger level, it makes sense.

But the unseen personal reaction of this decision is, daresay, rather stupid. It walks quietly through my door, as the amount of people buying up a large amount of codeine-based pain relief has slowly become a daily occurrence. This week has seen those people especially naked in their approach. It’s not as cliche as people wheeling in wheelbarrows or stocking a cupboard full of stashed birth control devices just like Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend did, but it is not far off. wrote a piece which in turn inspired me to write this. The piece warned of pharmacists “bracing for angry customers later this week when they’re told they can’t buy medicines with codeine over the counter,” but the truth is far different. The faces have been cheery as numerous boxes are placed on the counter, as we have no choice but to ring up the transaction. The “angry people” might only be the small amount who didn’t think of doing what everyone else already had. The truth is that while it might be our responsibility to regulate the amount of codeine we sell in one transaction or to one person, the application of those rules is extremely subjective.

Unless someone cleans out the shelf, there’s really not much we can do. While five boxes of codeine doesn’t seem like too much, it certainly is if the customer is travelling to numerous chemists making the same transaction. If that’s the case, frankly, it’s rather dangerous. I can empathise with the reasons why, and that a government ban feels like something that should be fought, or resisted, because of our dislike of the nanny-state interfering with our lives. I get that, but the reclassification of codeine is an extremely important moment, as opioid dependency is a real issue.

In fact, pharmaceutical overdoses now outweigh their illegal cousin in this country.

I don’t want to preach, but it’s not too late to see your GP to discuss alternate solutions for pain management. In this situation, please trust the professionals, we’re here to help you. Even if you don’t believe it.

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