Cough Syrup Epidemic

What is Lean?

COUGH SYRUP EPIDEMIC. Lean is the street name for cough syrup containing codeine mixed with soft drinks. The drug is becoming more common in everyday use. It is popular among adolescents and young adults in lower income areas. The drug is freely available at such a low price that it is exceedingly easy to obtain and use. Not only can anyone walk into any pharmacy and buy it, there are even dealers who carry these products so that the users may avoid possible scrutiny from the people who sell it.

The Symptoms and effects of Lean:

Codeine is the active ingredient in lean and as it is an opiate, it is highly addictive and does cause physical dependence. This means that prolonged use of the drug may lead to withdrawal. In addition to this the symptoms of codeine use include, but are not limited to: drowsiness, memory loss, black out, nausea, vomiting, dysphoria, euphoria, dissociation, in extreme cases use may lead to seizures, and respiratory depression which can often lead to death.

Laws and Regulations of Pharmaceutical Companies in South Africa:

The cough syrup which is being used is freely available over the counter at pharmacies. There are regulations in place to try and combat the abuse of these medications, pharmacies are legally bound to take a person’s details when they buy codeine products and are only allowed to sell one product per person at any time. In addition to that, Adcock Ingram, one of South Africa’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, have a dedicated team looking out for suspiciously large or frequent orders. These measures, however honorable, still fall short. Without a national database there is no way to ensure someone is not buying from multiple pharmacies. In addition to this, corrupt pharmacists and drug dealers find ways and means around the regulation that have been put in place. 

How do we make a change in combatting Lean?

Combating an epidemic of these proportions starts first with taking the problem seriously. The regulatory bodies within South Africa have seen the problem and are taking measures to keep the population safe, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the individual. Even over the counter substances need to be taken seriously and treated as dangerous and addictive. Most importantly, any addiction needs to be treated as such. Just because the substance a person is addicted to seems innocuous it does not mean that the addiction itself is harmless.

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