CPC warns against unauthorised possession, consumption of codeine

Babatunde Irukera

The Consumer Protection Council has condemned the unauthorised possession or consumption of expectorants and cough syrups containing codeine, stating that it is illegal to purchase or dispense such medication, except prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner.

In a statement made available to our correspondent on Wednesday, the Council stressed that ‘any possession, delivery or provision of codeine in the absence of a prescription, or legal acquisition but dispensing to a person other than whom it is specifically prescribed for, is a violation of law,’ adding that it constitutes drug abuse, and presents significant medical risks including injury, risky behaviour and addiction.

Signed by the Director General of the Council, Babatunde Irukera, the Council described codeine as an ‘opiate that is classified as a narcotic substance, although not an illegal drug,’ adding that codeine is largely used as a pain reliever and cough suppressant.

‘Codeine is an active ingredient in some expectorants or cough syrups,’ he said.

‘In exercise of the regulatory authority of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, expectorants or cough syrups containing codeine may not be dispensed as non-prescriptive Over the Counter (OTC) medication.’

While warning that consumption of codeine with alcohol or carbonated drinks can have serious adverse effects, the council noted that the methods of mixtures negatively interact and have become a serious and dangerous pattern which pose significant risks of debilitating side effects, including respiratory difficulties, nervous system deficiencies and mental impairment.

According to the Director General, the emerging professional medical and regulatory preference is to prohibit prescription of cough medication containing codeine to minors because of its properties and propensity to promote addiction and other exposure to illegal drug use.

‘The Council therefore advises that cough medication with codeine should be prescribed, dispensed and administered in an abundance of caution and only in strict compliance with professional medical direction, and in any case not prescribed for, dispensed to, or administered to minors.’

‘The Council also reminds consumers that violation of law with respect to dispensing, possessing and consuming illegal drugs, or legal drugs illegally is criminal and may subject offenders to apprehension, detention and prosecution, including by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and upon conviction, a sentence to a term of imprisonment,’ he added.

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