As the FDA clamped down on tramadol sales from Pharmacy shops, Over the Counter Medicines Sellers (OTCMS) and other identified sales joints in the Bolgatanga Municipality, the Tramadol abusers have substituted the strong painkiller with cough mixtures.
The most patronised cough syrups with hyper-dazing substances include; Kofex, Viscof-D, Cofron Plus, Bella Tripple Action and samalin cough syrup among others.
A careful study of the labels on these cough mixtures showed some common ingredients such as Chlorphenamine Maleate, codeine phosphate, Diphenhydramine hydrochloride, ammonium Chloride among others.
Mr Lawrence Atongo, a Pharmacist in Bolgatanga, in an interview explained that the major ingredients causing the youth to patronise the cough syrups are codeine and Diphenhydramine.
‘Once you see these two in the cough mixture, then they have the potentials to be abused. They are classified under the opioid family and behave like cocaine, petedine, tramadol and heroin among others.’
According to the Pharmacist, even though these ingredients were of different classes depending on their actions, codeine and Diphenhydramine were not as active as the major ingredients in cocaine, morphine and petedine, adding that the higher doses abused, the higher and faster the reaction and effect.
He said when highly abused, the ingredients make their users feel some level of euphoria and enjoy whatever effects they take the drugs for. ‘Some mix full bottle of about 125 mills of these cough mixtures with alcoholic beverages such as Guinness and the various whiskies and bitters on the market and some take it wholly to derive maximum reactions’.
Mr Atongo who is also Managing Director of Endswell Pharmaceuticals in Bolgatanga, indicated that even though Diphenhydramine is not a narcotic, it had a central acting property and affected the brain and makes users drowsy. ‘It has the same reaction like the other ones that are narcotics. It makes users feel they have taken some high-class drugs like cocaine, or wee and usually reacted on the brain to get them to be active’.
He said, unlike Diphenhydramine, the reactions on ingredients such as Chlorphenamine are not as effective as those in Diphenhydramine. ‘When one takes piriton or even diazepam (Volume or sleeping tablets), it puts one to sleep because it goes to numb your nerves and when the nerves are numbed that will cause you to sleep but because you are using your body to work you don’t feel tired’. He explained.
Further investigations conducted by the Ghana News Agency in Bolgatanga showed that the cough mixture patrons empty a whole 125 mills of the drug into alcoholic beverages mostly Guinness and other spirits and take everything to get high up.
The drug which is usually patronised by frail and junk looking young men is usually acquired from pharmacy shops and OTCMS as the sale of Tramadol is becoming restricted on the market.
A sales person at one of the OTCMS in the Bolgatanga Municipality, Ms Doris Bawa who spoke to the GNA said she realised that more young people patronised the cough syrups mostly Kofex, Viscof products and other cough medicines containing codeine. ‘When they ask for Tramadol and I tell them it is not available, they request for cough syrup’. She added.
Ms Bawa said she reported the trend to her boss who directed her not to sell any cough syrup to such clients ‘but because they are on display on the shelves and they see them, I am forced to raise the price higher and sometimes it scares them and they live without buying it’.
Early morning search by the GNA for a period of two weeks at some drinking spots showed cases and empty bottles of the cough syrups littered occasionally at these bars where more of the youth patronised.