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New EU research to tackle 'hidden nature' of codeine misuse

King’s College London is a partner in a 2 million euro multinational research project into codeine use, misuse and dependence, funded by the European Commission.

‘CODEMISUSED’ is a four-year project which will involve researchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) and Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery (FNSNM), working with the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in Ireland,  the Medical Research Council of South Africa and three leading pharmacy companies in a collaborative effort between drug, medical and health researchers, and that of pharmacy practitioners.

Dr Paolo Deluca (IoP), Professor Ian Norman (FNSNM), and Dr Marie Claire Van Hout (Project Coordinator PI, WIT) will play leading roles in the research.  They will work for periods in South Africa and Ireland and will host academics from the other partners at King’s College London for the first two years of the project.

Dr Deluca, from the National Addiction Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry and King’s lead for the project said: “CODEMISUSED aims to estimate levels of therapeutic and non-therapeutic codeine use, misuse and dependence in partner countries. Our study will investigate the ‘hidden nature’ of codeine misuse – as a legitimate product, the extent of codeine misuse is not adequately reflected in national or international prevalence or treatment data. The unprecedented range of expertise we are bringing together in this project reflects the complex nature of the issue – users access codeine through prescriptions, over-the-counter and web-based sales, and understanding the profile of users and scale of the problem will require collaboration with pharmacists, GPs, pain management specialists and addiction treatment providers.

“Our findings will have a distinct impact on EU medicinal, dispensing, staff training and treatment standards and national pharmacy practice policies. It will give doctors, nurses, community pharmacists and other health professionals from partner countries a fuller understanding of the scale of codeine use and will enable the pharmacies, as the primary point of sale, to begin to address the problems associated with misuse and dependence.”

Professor Norman, Deputy Head, FNSNM said, “Codeine is currently the most commonly consumed opiate worldwide and since 2010, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the International Narcotics Control Board has been concerned about the misuse of prescribed and over the counter  medication. But very little is known about patterns of codeine use.

“What we suspect is that a variety of sub groups exist in the form of the elderly, youth, parents, recreational, problematic and opiate dependent drug users, each with their own motives, patterns and outcomes for use. Our research will develop codeine user profiles to inform the design of protective mechanisms to track, monitor, support and refer codeine misusers and inform the design of treatment interventions.”

For further information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London: Tel: 0207 848 5377 Email: