Menace of Codeine-based cough syrups: Why are they controlled?
The problem due to Codeine-based cough syrups is turning out to bigger than what the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) may have anticipated. The addiction to Codeine-based cough syrups is a serious problem and Punjab and the North East are probably two regions which have suffered most due to it.
The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had recently asked the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to "substantially reduce" the availability of codeine-based cough syrups, saying they are being used as narcotic drugs.
On Tuesday, a police team with the assistance of the Excise Department intercepted a truck and recovered 1,960 bottles of Max Coff-T (syrup containing codeine phosphate).
The NCB had earlier this year seized pharmaceutical formulations such as codeine-based cough syrups like Phensedyl and Corex and tramadol preparations such as Spasmoproxyvon Plus from smugglers along the India-Bangladesh border.
Last month, the Crime Branch arrested three men and busted a drug cartel which supplied cough syrup 'Phensydyl' (Codeine) illegally in the North-East. 53 parcels containing 200 bottles each, totalling to 10,600 bottles, were recovered from the container, which was hidden behind the boxes of electronic items.
Phensydyl is smuggled to Bangladesh and BSF often catches smugglers trying to sneak it across the border. The BSF has seized over 700,000 bottles of Phensedyl worth about Rs. 7 crore in the last four years.
Last year, the government took a major step to check the manufacturing of codeine-based cough syrups, which were earlier easily available at chemist shops. These syrups, which were being sold under brand names Corex, Phensedyl, Rexcof, had become a major menace as many youths became addicted to them.
Why are these syrups under controlled drugs?
Although Codeine-based cough syrups are effective in suppressing cough and cold, their misuse has emerged as a major problem. The active ingredient Codeine is a narcotic belonging to a class of chemicals called opioids.
Opioids can be highly addictive when taken in more than recommended quantities and for a prolonged period.
It needs to be noted that contraband substance Heroin is also an opioid. Codeine, a much weaker opioid when compared to Heroin or Morphine, can still be habit forming because of its calming effects and ability to induce a false sense of euphoria.
When the court banned them, it was felt that their ill-effects far outweighed the benefits they offer. In many countries, painkillers which contain Codeine and paracetamol are available over-the-counter.