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New Zealand moves to “prescription only” for codeine medications

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Effective 5 November 2020, codeine and codeine-containing combination products, such as Nurofen Plus, will change from being ‘over the counter’ to ‘prescription-only’ products in New Zealand.

Codeine, from the opiate drug class, is an effective painkiller and is impairing at work. It can be addictive and can be misused. Rescheduling codeine medications, such that they can only be supplied with a prescription, aims to reduce the number of overdose deaths linked to the drug. A similar change to the availability of codeine came into effect in Australia from February 2018.

The requirement to visit a doctor to obtain a prescription is likely to reduce the use of codeine products over time. However, due to their current widespread use, it is likely people may have a stockpile of codeine medications at home and use them without consulting a doctor (albeit, decreasing over time).

As for workplace drug and alcohol testing, codeine is an opiate and may trigger a non-negative drug result. With codeine’s change to prescription-only availability, workplaces may wish to consider how they will handle a positive drug result, e.g., request evidence of a prescription. At the very least, we suggest a review of your drug and alcohol policy to ensure it remains robust.

DASA can assist with drug and alcohol policy review. To know more, get in touch via


DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug testing and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.


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