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Nagaland

‘Abuse of cough syrups is the gateway to hard drugs’

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By Atono Tsükrü Updated: Feb 22, 2017 11:09 pm
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Kohima, Feb. 22: In the past five to six years, a new form of substance abuse – that of over-the-counter (OTC) codeine based cough medicine – has increased at an alarming rate among the youth. This practice among the young people is also referred to as robo-tripping or skittling.
In the 1980s, faith based organisations and civil societies led by the Naga Mothers Association had fought substance and alcohol abuse, leading to the Prohibition Act of 1989 in Nagaland. However, as a result of this, pharmaceutical drugs became an alternative means of intoxicant.
NGO workers dealing with drug abuse fears that if left unchecked “with strategic measures in time”, this could give rise to a new breed of Injecting Drug Users in few years’ time. This, they fear, could be the 1980s all over again.
Though reports suggest many users in other districts as well, Kohima and Dimapur are said to have the ‘most visible users’ of cough syrup. In Kohima town, empty cough syrup bottles neatly wrapped in newspapers discarded in road corners, drainages and garbage collection points are not uncommon sights.
Though codeine based cough syrups are banned, they are available at pharmacies. The easy availability could be one reason why youngsters use it as recreational drugs. Also, the cough syrups are thought less dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin, relipen, spasmo proxyvon.
Dr Dietho, medical officer of PHC Khezhakeno, told Eastern Mirror said that the cough syrup is the most commonly abused substance in Nagaland today. Although it is a very useful drug, its abuse is alarming, he said.
According to him, codeine is basically an ‘opioid analgesic’ – a pain reliever prescribed for mild to moderate pain. It acts on the central nervous system, and thus the danger of forming a habit like narcotics if used over long periods or in excessive doses.
Ketholelie Angami, a member of Nagaland Users Network (NUN) expressed concern over the increasing abuse of cough syrup among the youngsters. According to him, the cough syrups are the “gateway” to other drugs like SP, RP, heroine etc.
“If this trend continues, my concern is that it is likely that we might see a new group of drug injectors in another five years or so,” he said.
Explaining the adverse effects of regular use of cough syrups, he said people don’t start taking drugs with the thought that he/she will get addicted, however once the ‘body tolerance’ increases the consumption of cough syrups will not give the users the ‘euphoric feeling’ that they have experienced in the initial usage of dosage.
This will, in due course of time, compel the users to shift the mode of drugs use to others, said Ketho. He stressed on the need for regulation of the drugs by the narcotics department and preventive measures by the NGOs, and the government at the earliest.
A user, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the “hottest trend” to get high today is cough syrup, and when asked how they procure the cough syrup, he said one need to have a good connection with the pharmacists.
It was learned that a popular medical store in Dimapur is the main stockist for Kohima district. Some of the common cough syrups found discarded are phensydyle, corex Dx, codectuss, maxcoff etc. They are priced between Rs 80 to Rs 120, and sold by pharmacists between Rs 100 to Rs 150.
According to the Superintendent of Narcotics, Jatila under Drugs and Cosmetics Act about 10,066 bottles of cough syrup of various brands were seized during 2016.
Expressing concern over the alarming number of users among the youth, she said her department is trying its best to check the entry of banned drugs into the district. Though aware of the availability of cough syrups at pharmacies, she said they cannot just go and raid without concrete information.
According to Dr Dietho, when taken in excessive amount, some complications of codeine usage are sleepiness, constipation, confusion, seizure, loss of appetite, dry mouth, addiction etc.
Many people, he said, become dependent on codeine-containing-cough-syrups without actually realising it. Getting out of codeine addiction is as hard as with any other hard drugs like heroin or brown sugar, he informed.
This is because, Dr Dietho said, codeine-based-cough-syrups fall in the same class of drugs very commonly addicted to like spasmo proxyvon, relipen, heroin, brown sugar etc. All these have raised questions about strategic policing, and even the spread of awareness among the youth about the dangers of cough syrup abuse.

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By Atono Tsükrü Updated: Feb 22, 2017 11:09:17 pm