LEGAL BUT NOT SAFE: A woman says her addiction to over-the-counter codeine was ‘worse than ice’.
LEGAL BUT NOT SAFE: A woman says her addiction to over-the-counter codeine was ‘worse than ice’. Carlos Gutierrez

ADDICT: Codeine ‘harder to quit than ice’

A HERVEY Bay woman who has lived more than half her life in a drug haze said codeine was harder to quit than ice, because it's legal.

For the past 25 years, the woman has suffered through an addiction to ice, alcohol and codeine and now has irreversible organ damage to her pancreas, and other gastrointestinal organs.

Nurofen Plus, Mersyndol Day and Night, Dolased and Panadeine Rapid were her drugs of choice, and she could pick them up at any pharmacy.

Despite being able stop using ice 20 years ago, the 44-year-old woman said it was "absolutely" much harder to stop using alcohol and codeine because they were legal and readily available.

"Everyone does it," she said.

"The first thing people do when they've got headache is take a pill, next thing you know they take Mersyndol and go 'hey these things work!' and once you've gone from regular Panadol to codeine there's no going back.

"Next thing you know you're taking 20 a day and it's controlling your life."

The woman first started taking codeine to feel numb from the hangovers she would suffer after abusing alcohol and speed (the powdered form of methamphetamine or 'ice').

But while she managed to quit ice, she soon became dependent on the feeling she got from the legal narcotics.

"You take it properly at first, only six or eight tablets a day, but I ended up taking 20 tablets at day at my worst," she said.

"I liked the way it made me feel; it makes you feel high but also relaxed, that one is very hard to describe, if you get stuck on it you do find it hard to stop and I did suffer withdrawal from it."

The woman, who is married and holds down a respectable job, found herself in a vicious cycle of alcohol abuse and codeine dependency and said her life became dedicated to drugs.

The Hervey Bay woman has been to hospital 15 times in the last 20 years for internal bleeding, pancreatitis and gastrointestinal distress.

"If I took too many my organs would start swelling and I've had intestinal bleeding before," she said.

"It eats you from the inside out."

Dr Kees Nydam from Wide Bay Health's Alcohol and Other Drugs Support Services has helped people who were taking 200 codeine-based pills a day.

He said there were many reasons why a person could become dependent on codeine.

"It may be genetic, may be early trauma, might be adult post traumatic stress disorder, might be anxiety disorder, might be depressive disorder, may be that you live in a sub-group of people where it's ok to use drugs," Dr Nydam said.

"A lot of people do not realise that if you previously had a problem with one drug then you'll have a problem with another drug."

CODEINE EXPLAINED

  • In 70% of people, codeine turns into morphine when it enters the body.
  •  A doctors' prescription is not currently needed to buy codeine-based products.


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