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Experiences of over-the-counter codeine misusers and accounts of recovery: A qualitative study in Tasmania, Australia


Kirschbaum, MA and Barnett, T and Cross, M, Experiences of over-the-counter codeine misusers and accounts of recovery: A qualitative study in Tasmania, Australia, Drug and Alcohol Review, 39 pp. 879-887. ISSN 0959-5236 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

DOI: doi:10.1111/dar.13081


Introduction and Aims: There is international concern about misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) codeine, yet few studies have reported the perspectives of misusers themselves. This study explored the experience of OTC codeine misuse and recovery in Tasmania, Australia.

Design and Methods: Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 15 self-identified long-term users of OTC codeine. The interview guide prompted responses about reasons for codeine use, positive and negative impacts, recovery, identity and codeine accessibility. Transcripts were analysed abductively using qualitative content analysis. Categories that emerged from misuser accounts were aligned to three broad temporal phases: (i) transition to misuse; (ii) growing awareness; and (iii) towards recovery.

Results: Salient features of the misuse experience included: initial use for the self-treatment of physical pain; ongoing use to self-medicate physical pain, stress or mental health conditions; a perception of safety of OTC codeine; an insidious transition from use to misuse; growing awareness of a problem over time; support provided by family, friends and the internet; recovery through self-change; and recognition that recovery is an ongoing process.

Discussion and Conclusions: Knowledge and understanding of the experience of OTC codeine misuse and recovery is critical to inform and tailor approaches to prevention and intervention. The findings suggest that strategies to improve the management of pain, stress and mental health, raise self-awareness of problematic use and potential for self-change, and increase social and web-based supports, should be considered when designing health policy initiatives that aim to reduce misuse.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:codeine, substance abuse, qualitative research, addiction, recovery
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences
Research Field:Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Kirschbaum, MA (Mrs Melissa Kirschbaum)
UTAS Author:Barnett, T (Associate Professor Tony Barnett)
UTAS Author:Cross, M (Dr Merylin Cross)
ID Code:138883
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:UTAS Centre for Rural Health
Deposited On:2020-05-07
Last Modified:2021-06-21

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