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Many using cough syrups to sleep

Cheryl Harewood

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PHARMACIES and shops which sell over-the-counter cough medicines may be recording high sales, but not because of a prevalence of coughs or colds.A SUNDAY SUN investigation revealed that many people are purchasing these DM and codeine-laced syrups to help them fight insomnia and depression.President of the Barbados Pharmacy Council, Andy Bourne says the relevant laws need to be in place to take cough syrups off the shelves.“Maybe we can have a law to move some of the cough syrup behind the counter,” Bourne said.The revelation of cough syrups being used as sleeping aids came to light recently following a SUNDAY SUN feature on insomnia.One young man, who said he was suicidal, said he had taken 400 ml of Codeine in the hope that it would put him to sleep. Both Bourne and president of the Pharmaceutical Society Bandele Serrano agree that the public must be educated on the use of these cough medicines.Bourne said he would look at engaging pharmacists on the issue, while depending on them to counsel persons they “believe are taking the cough syrups as sleeping aids.” “The importance of the pharmacist is to educate and we have to do more of this.”Same facesA Knights City pharmacist said: “Sometimes you see the same faces coming into the pharmacy repeatedly to purchase Tuscosed and Codeine. We would say that they are addicted because they seemingly crave these cough medicines. It’s not that they might need them.“When they become addicted, the cough medicines cannot help them, because the medicines just don’t work anymore.” Another pharmacist explained that both Tuscosed and Codeine were sold under the supervision of pharmacists but without a doctor’s prescription, making them easily accessible.She said: “Most people who request cough syrups ask for Tuscosed and Codeine. Sometimes they ask for 300 ml or up to 500 ml. Usually, I sell 200 ml, but you can never know if someone is purchasing more than 200 ml to pass a bottle on to someone else. She further explained: “One of the side effects of taking Codeine is that of putting a person to sleep, but it’s really for pain management and persistent dry coughs”, adding that Tuscosed, which is an antihistamine and nasal decongestant, also contained Codeine.“Both are narcotics and can be addictive. That’s why people are using them to put them to sleep or for pain. As such, they can develop a dependency on them,” she affirmed.Pharmacists could not state the long term effects of over-dosing cough syrup for sleeping purposes, but has advised that persons having difficulty sleeping should consult a doctor or psychologist.They also cautioned the use of taking prescribed sleeping pills without determining the cause behind the insomnia, since this too could create further drug dependency.