Miraa chewers are putting themselves in danger by abusing a cough syrup which they use as a sweetener, medical experts have warned.
The medics say the misuse of Benylin is sparking a new form of drug abuse and addiction.
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The Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board (KPPB) Thursday said 20 youths have been arrested for misusing Benylin cough syrups as a sweetener when chewing miraa.
“We have established a task force to probe the misuse of cough syrups such as Benylin by youth for chewing miraa or drinking it to get 'high',” said Julius Kaluai, KPPB senior drugs inspector.
Dr Kaluai said miraa consumers abuse the syrup because it contains codeine, which if taken in large quantities causes euphoria or makes the consumer drunk or 'high'.
KPPB has established a task force to investigate the misuse of the drug and has also proposes how government agencies can contain the trend, especially among the youth.
The board's officials were addressing the press in Mombasa Thursday after they concluded a week-long raid that saw 40 chemist operators arrested for violating regulations.
Those arrested were either found selling unregistered drugs or were not licensed to operate.
“From the preliminary investigations, the importer of these cough syrups has met all the conditions but some unscrupulous pharmacists are selling them to youths, who misuse them,” said Kaluai.
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He said Benylin syrup was now being monitored closely because of its high rate of abuse by youths or adolescents.
Other than sweetening miraa, the drug is also being misused by being mixed with alcohol or soda as an intoxicating substance, according to experts.
According to the American Addiction Centre, cough syrups contain a mild opioid narcotic, making it a target of abuse for people seeking highs.
“The report of the misuse of these syrups is ready and will be made public either today (Thursday) evening or over the weekend. It is a concern,” said Kaluai.
Elsewhere, the board has also cited lifestyle and prescription drugs such as antibiotics and antimalarial drugs as some of the most abused drugs in the country.
The right dosage
According to Paddy Agor, KPPB's Coast region head, many patients resort to treatment by quacks because they do not take the right dosage.
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“Some patients, instead of taking the right dosage of antimalarials, insist on one pill or injection and in most cases quacks give in to the demands,” said Mr Agor.