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Regulating codeine medicines ‘won’t solve growing pupil drug abuse problem’

There have been reports of Xanax being sold to pupils at R3 per pill. Picture: Supplied

There have been reports of Xanax being sold to pupils at R3 per pill. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 20, 2020


Cape Town – Regulating codeine-containing medicines and cough syrups to be made available only on doctors’

prescriptions would not necessarily curb the growing problem of schoolchildren abusing the street drugs lean or Xanax.

So says Pharmaceutical Society of SA spokesperson Dr Johan Kruger, who was reacting to a campaign by the Grassy Park Community Policing Forum (CPF) for the medications to be reclassified.

Codeine-containing drugs were combined with soda to create the illegal street drug lean, which was growing in popularity among schoolchildren, especially on the Cape Flats, Grassy Park CPF chairperson Melvin Jonkers said.

He said Grassy Park police, in a joint operation with the CPF and neighbourhood watches, recently found codeine-containing drugs and dagga hidden in a hole in the backyard of a 62-year-old resident’s house in Grassy Park.

The resident was apparently the janitor at a high school in the area, Jonkers said.

“It has been reported that pupils openly consume the concoction on school premises. The Grassy Park CPF has been campaigning for some time now to have this medication reclassified so that its sale and use require a doctor’s prescription.

“The CPF calls upon pharmacies in our area to be strict with the supply of cough syrups to youngsters. 

"It is heartening to note that some pharmacies will not sell the cough medication without proper motivation by a health professional,” Jonkers said. 

Kruger said the Pharmaceutical Society was not of the view that upscheduling certain drugs would address the abuse.

“One example of this is the upscheduling of D-norpseudophedrine from which (illegal) tik is made. It did not address abuse, especially on the Cape Flats. It’s a social problem, a lack of social cohesion and of poverty and unemployment.

“We are of the opinion that

pharmacists could control the issuing of codeine-containing medicines much better if we had a universal database that would indicate if a

person had purchased such a product from any pharmacy or doctor before,” Kruger said.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said their district was not aware of the lean drug.

“We are, however, aware of allegations regarding the use of Xanax, which is extremely concerning. Reports have indicated that pupils are being sold the drug at R3 per pill.

The drug seemingly affects pupils’ behaviour and attention span.

“The SAPS has been alerted. Intervention and prevention strategies are being discussed by the WCED Special Learner and Support Sub-directorate.

“We hope that local law enforcement will discover the source and its distribution networks before more pupils are targeted. It has serious negative side effects and is highly ­addictive.”

Cape Times

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