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Like most medications, codeine cough syrup has a number of pros and cons, but the biggest advantages tend to center on the drug’s potency and effectiveness while the downsides include the potential for abuse and the possibility of serious side effects, particularly in children. Codeine is a powerful ingredient that is derived from the poppy plant, and it’s generally classed as an opiate. Different countries have different drug sale regulations, but codeine-containing medications are widely available in most places. It is popular not only in cough medications but also in a range of painkillers and other drugs. The body is often able to absorb it really quickly when it’s suspended in syrup, which can be an asset when it comes to treating things like sore throat pain or the headaches that commonly accompany a cough. It can also be easy to take too much this way, though, which can cause breathing problems and other health issues; it also opens up the potential for syrups to be used in the manufacture of homemade recreational drugs.
The biggest “pro” is, in most cases, the syrup’s general effectiveness and strong potency. It works in two distinct ways: on the one hand, it eases the pain of hard coughs, while on the other it actually suppresses the part of the brain that controls coughing and respiratory distress. Taken together these two attributes can make colds shorter and less uncomfortable. In most cases these sorts of products begin working within minutes, too, since the codeine is able to enter the bloodstream very quickly once the liquid is swallowed.
These sorts of cough syrups are usually believed to be much more potent and effective than more “standard” syrups, most of which contain only temporary numbing agents or light pain killers. As a consequence, people often find themselves taking less to achieve similar results.
It’s usually fairly easy for people to get this sort of product, as well. Codeine is popular all over the world. There are differences when it comes to whether or not people need a prescription to buy these sorts of syrups, but even then prescriptions aren’t usually that hard to procure. Medical professionals frequently view codeine syrups one of the most effective ways to cure a cough quickly, and will often order the prescription almost as a matter of course once it’s clear a person is suffering.
Potential for Abuse
Availability can also work as a “con,” at least where drug abuse is concerned. Codeine is a popular addition to a number of recreational drugs, and cough syrup suspensions are often prized in these circles because of their quick absorption and generally high concentrations. This sort of syrup is actually the main ingredient in a drug called “purple drank” that originates from the southern part of the United States. Other medications and ingredients are added to the cocktail according to preference. Purple drank is also commonly know as “Texas tea,” “sizzurp,” and “purple jelly,” with the “purple” attributions owing to the cough syrup’s usual color.
In some countries, measures have been taken to prevent abuse. Sometimes manufacturers will add medications to the cough syrup to produce undesirable effects if taken in the amount needed to make drugs. It’s also common in many places for people to have to show identification to purchase codeine-containing products, and some pharmacies and chemists keep track of clients and monitor anyone who seems to be making more codeine purchases than normal.
The side effects of codeine cough syrup are normally mild, but can be severe and life-threatening in some instances. Allergic reactions are some of the most common, and some people may also experience hallucinations and yellowing of the skin and eyes, though these experiences are most common with prolonged use. Commonly observed mild side effects include headache, nausea and vomiting, and drowsiness. It is possible to overdose with this medication, too, which can be fatal if treatment is not sought right away.
There are usually a number of special precautions for children and pregnant women, and in general neither should use this sort of cough syrup. Children under six are more at risk for experiencing a range of breathing and respiratory problems, and the drug may also stunt the growth or damage the growing organs of developing fetuses.