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LOOK: Hundreds of empty cough syrup bottles found at Verulam criminal den

Officers from the Reaction Unit South Africa stand next to the heap of empty cough syrup bottles that were found at various drug and criminal dens around the Verulam area, north of Durban. Image: Supplied/RUSA.

Officers from the Reaction Unit South Africa stand next to the heap of empty cough syrup bottles that were found at various drug and criminal dens around the Verulam area, north of Durban. Image: Supplied/RUSA.

Published Jul 4, 2022

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Durban - Members from a private security company, Reaction Unit South Africa (RUSA), this week discovered a large amount of empty cough syrup bottles at various locations around the Verulam area, north of Durban.

According to RUSA, which operates mainly in the northern parts of the eThekwini region, the bottles were found in areas frequently used by drug addicts and suspects sought for robberies and other violent crimes.

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The empty cough syrup bottles were found under bridges on Todd Street, on an unused railway line near Groom Street & in drains along the R102 Southbound lanes.

The bottles were found during a search for suspects wanted in the area.

Officers from the Reaction Unit South Africa stand next to the heap of empty cough syrup bottles that were found at various drug and criminal dens around the Verulam area, north of Durban. Image: Supplied/RUSA.

Cough syrup is consumed by people for its narcotic purposes, as many over-the-counter brands contain codeine - an opiate-based substance meant to treat pain.

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‘Lean’ or ‘purp’, which is a combination of cough syrup and cooldrink, is often abused by youngsters but, in recent times, has been a go-to drug choice on the streets because it is easily accessible and cheap.

Lean is often promoted by new-age rappers, as they, too, show themselves or speak about consuming the mixture.

But the bottles found under the bridge by RUSA contained an ingredient called Dextromethorphan (DXM), which is a replacement for codeine that is found in OTC syrups.

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Although milder than codeine, DXM also has sedative properties.

“The bottles were found under bridges on Todd Street, on an unused railway line near Groom Street & in drains along the R102 Southbound lanes in Verulam - KZN. All three areas are frequently used by drug addicts and suspects sought for Robberies & stabbings in the Central Business Districts.

“When Reaction Officers made enquiries at local pharmacies, they were informed that these bottles of cough mixtures were purchased cheaply as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

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“These cough syrups contain Dextromethorphan (DXM) which replaces codeine in over-the-counter cold & flu medication. This drug is intoxicating and dangerous and has become the target of abuse by drug users. It's an easy & cheap way of getting high,” RUSA said.

According to medical reports online, abusing DXM can result in hallucinations, paranoia and aggression. When mixed with alcohol, this worsens.

In 2019, the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) said it was aware that codeine cough syrups were being abused.

“Codeine-containing cough syrups are regulated in terms of Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 to the Medicines Act. Unless prescribed by an authorised prescriber, these products can only be sold by a registered pharmacist, or a post-basic pharmacist’s assistant under the personal supervision of a pharmacist, at a licensed pharmacy.

“SAHPRA is aware of illicit sales of codeine-containing cough syrups through other outlets and is working on the means to monitor suppliers of these products,” the then acting CEO, Portia Nkambule, said.

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