The addiction of cough syrup is a growing concern among many people in the United Kingdom. Cough Syrups abused has been an ongoing issue for years especially by young people who want to get high or drunk without paying for illicit drugs. While some stores have removed such syrups from display, others have the bottles out in the open on display without the awareness about its increased misuse in the UK.
Codeine is an opiod drug found in cough syrups that is used to help treat mild pain, due its main opiod narcotic ingredient, many young people target this when seeking narcotic highs.
Other ingredients found in cough syrups include dextromethorphan, promethazine and DXM which are dangerous and intoxicating. When consumed in large doses, it creates the feeling of drunkenness, hallucinations and a sense of transits.
In recent years the mixture of cough syrup and alcohol/other soda’s has become very popular among young people in the UK. This blend of cough syrup and alcohol/sodas is also commonly referred to as Purple Drank, Southern Lean, Lean, Purp, Drank, Barre Oil, Purple Jelly, Texas Tea, Purple Sprite, Syrup or Sizzurp.
The effects of the combination include, uncontrolled eye movement, droopy eyes, slowed heart rate, rough raspy voice, slow slurred speech, Tremors, Insomnia, Catatonia, hallucination, mania, psychosis and possibly seizures.
In 2009, it estimated that 30,000 people in the United Kingdom were addicted to a codeine-containing drug. According to BBC reports by David Rhodes (2018) “Nearly 24 million opioids, such as morphine, were prescribed in 2017 – equivalent to 2,700 packs an hour”, the impact of this substance abuse can be life threatening.
It is believed that this practice is influenced by the hip pop culture with numerous celebrities glamorising such practices. Although some people have ended up in hospital or dead due to the mixture of cough syrups and other intoxicants such as marijuana, this practice is still popular to date.
How to spot if your child is abusing Cough Syrup (Narconnon.org)
• Empty cough medicine boxes or bottles in the trash or child’s belongings
• Purchases of cough medication without notifying you (although some youth shoplift the drug)
• Cough medicine missing from medicine cabinets
• Hearing the slang terms for cough medicine abuse
• Internet history on personal computer, laptop or smartphone showing visits to sites talking about cough medicine abuse or purchasing
• Unexplained delivery of packages (but note that some youth will have illicit materials delivered to a different address)
Prevention of the abuse of cough syrups by young people
Parents need to start educating their children about the implications and risk associated to the abuse of cough syrup. It is evident that as young people grow their role models and influences (friends, celebrities, rappers, actors, footballers) do not always discuss risk associated to certain behaviours but rather glamorise and portray a lifestyle of luxury.
Young people often hear about the abuse of cough syrup from friends and or other individuals in ways that may appear exciting and fun but the reality and lasting impact is far from this.
For this reason, educating children about risks associated to this practice in an open manner and allowing them to ask questions can support with raising awareness about the realities of this practice.
It is also important that parents set good examples of sobriety. Children and young people learn through observation, it is therefore essential that parents do not use a lot of prescription drugs as this sends mixed messages may undermine the importance and message a parent is trying to share with their child. Nevertheless, if the prescriptions drugs are a necessity for a parent due to ill health, this can be taken out of the view of a child.
Parents also need to educate themselves about this practice to help them gain a better understanding and knowledge about the abuse of cough syrups to support their children.
Resources To Support Parents
Support service available to support young people suffering from addiction
There are many services available to support young people addicted to cough syrup or any other drug, services available include detox, counselling, rehab and therapies. For more information about treatments or general enquires please contact UK Addiction Treatments on: 0808 274 0903. Frank (0300 123 6600) Is also a friendly, confidential, advice service available to support individuals. Alternatively, your local GP will be able to assist with information about other services available locally.
References and Further Reading
- https://americanaddictioncenters.org/codeine-addiction/dangers-of-mixing-with-alcohol/ (U.S resource)
- https://americanaddictioncenters.org/codeine-addiction/cough-syrup/ (U.S resource)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I_Lche2otU (YouTube Documentary about how this addiction is having an impact on lives in Nigeria)