10, March 2010
By Sumir Karmakar &
Guwahati/New Delhi, India
Why cough syrup’s so popular in North–East
Well, this is a different kind of fix. There’s increasing abuse of cough syrups by drug addicts in the Northeast and Bangladesh, where seemingly innocuous looking bottles are smuggled through Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
Phensedyl and Corex – these contain the highly addictive opium-based Codeine phosphate — are routinely used by youngsters and their easy availability has worsened the situation. According to local NGOs and doctors, parents are increasingly complaining about their kids’ addiction to pharmaceutical drugs like cough syrups, besides chemical substances like Dendrite and Erase X.
Last week, the police in Agartala seized 4,000 bottles of Phensedyl from the cargo base of a private airline in Agartala — and indication that peddlers are getting bold and using airlines for smuggling because the vigil on roads and waterways has increased. According to Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), while the exact volume of illegal trade in cough syrup in the Northeast isn’t known, police and BSF have, for the past year or so, been making recoveries worth over Rs 20 lakh per month. ‘‘The volume of business is increasing due to rise in drug abuse in the region,’’ said a top NCB official.
Arup Das, a counsellor with the rehabilitation centre Kripa Foundation, said, ‘‘Addicts between 8-20 years are coming with severe health problems like insomnia, memory loss, sleeplessness, and sensory and skin diseases due to prolonged use of Phensedyl, Corex and Spasmo Proxyvon — a tranquilliser.’’
Ask for a bottle of cough syrup and medical stores in Guwahati will deliver it without a prescription. Not just that, many brands of cough syrups are available even at paan shops, PCOs, CD parlours and stationary shops. The manufacturers of these syrups, Piramal Healthcare and Pfizer, are aware of their misuse, and say they routinely take steps to prevent it. Says an exceutive with Piramal Healthcare: ‘‘In specific zones like the Northeast, supplies are despatched only against orders. We are careful about monitoring the supplies.’’