The Consumer Protection Council has warned that illegal possession and consumption of codeine related drugs attracts severe sanctions.
The council said in a statement that dispensing, possessing and consuming expectorants and cough syrups containing codeine and other illegal drugs was criminal and may subject offenders to apprehension, detention and prosecution.
Babatunde Irukera, the Director-General of CPC, issued the warning in a statement made available to newsmen on Thursday in Abuja.
The director-general said the warning was issued pursuant to Sections 2(c), (e), and (j), Consumer Protection Council Act 2004.
Irukera said offenders may be apprehended, detained and prosecuted by the council or the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, adding that upon conviction, the offender could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
He said CPC had advised that cough medication with codeine should be prescribed, dispensed and administered in an abundance of caution.
He added that codeine should be administered only in strict compliance with professional medical direction, and in any case not prescribed for, dispensed to, or administered to minors.
The director-general, however, noted that National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), while exercising its regulatory functions, said expectorants/cough syrups containing codeine might not be dispensed as non-prescriptive Over the Counter (OTC) medication.
He said: “As such, it is illegal and a violation of law to attempt to purchase, purchase, as well as dispense any such medication, except exclusively in accordance with prescription by a qualified and legitimate medical practitioner.
“Any possession, delivery or provision of these medications 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.’’
He added that the illegal possession of codeine also constitutes drug abuse, and presents significant medical risks including possible injury, risky behaviour, addiction and in extreme cases (especially paediatrics), fatality.
Irukera said codeine is an opiate and one of many in the opioids family.
He added that codeine is, therefore, classified as a narcotic substance, although not an illegal drug.
He explained: “Codeine is largely used as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. As such, it is an active ingredient in some expectorants or cough syrups.
“Codeine is implicated in serious adverse effects when taken with, or contemporaneously with alcohol or carbonated drinks.
“These 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.’’
He said emerging medical and regulatory preference was 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.