Codeine misuse and dependence in South Africa: Perspectives of addiction treatment providers

Charles D H Parry, Eileen Rich, Marie Claire van Hout, Paolo Deluca


Background. General practitioners are referring patients with codeine-related problems to specialist treatment facilities, but little is known about the addiction treatment providers, the kinds of treatment they provide, and whether training or other interventions are needed to strengthen this sector.

Objectives. To investigate the perspectives of addiction treatment providers regarding treatment for codeine misuse or dependence.

Method. Twenty addiction treatment providers linked to the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use and the South African Addiction Medicine Society were contacted telephonically and asked 20 questions.

Results. While many participants had received training in pharmacological management of individuals with opioid dependence, only two had received specific training on codeine management. Between half and two-thirds of the treatment settings they worked in provided detoxification, pharmacotherapy, psychosocial treatment and aftercare. Very few treatment settings offered long-term treatment for codeine misuse and dependence. Participants indicated that over half of their codeine patients entered treatment for intentional misuse for intoxication, and dependence resulting from excessive or long-term use. The main barriers to patients entering treatment were seen as denial of having a problem, not being ready for change, mental health problems, stigma, and affordability of treatment. Participants identified a need for further training in how to manage withdrawal and detoxification, treatment modalities including motivational interviewing, and relapse prevention.

Conclusions. Gaps in training among treatment providers need to centre on how to manage withdrawal from codeine use and detoxification, motivational interviewing and relapse prevention. Interventions are needed to address barriers to entering treatment, including user denial.


Authors' affiliations

Charles D H Parry, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

Eileen Rich, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa

Marie Claire van Hout, School of Health Sciences, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland

Paolo Deluca, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, UK

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South Africa; Codeine dependence; Addiction treatment providers; Prescription opioid abuse; Drug treatment

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(5):451-456. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i5.12242

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-04-25
Date published: 2017-04-25

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