Pakistani officials investigate dozens of deaths possibly linked to cough syrup
Pakistan government officials are investigating a surge in illnesses and deaths in eastern Pakistan in the past few days. The one common link officials have found is the victims consumed cough syrup, according to an Emirate 24/7 news report Sunday.
According to the report, City of Gujranwala health officials say some 87 people, many believed to be drug addicts, consumed a locally manufactured cough syrup for the reason of getting high.
It is this activity that government authorities believe was the result of some 33 fatalities in Punjab province.
Officials say that chemical samples collected from the victims’ stomachs contained dextromethorphan, a synthetic morphine derivative used in cough syrup that can have mind-altering effects if consumed in large quantities.
Officials will also try to determine if those who died overdosed on the cough syrup, or was the medicine tainted in some way.
The victims were between 20 to 40 years old and a majority had a history of drug addiction, according to the report.
Senior police official Azam Mehr confirmed the toll and said samples of cough syrups available at local pharmacies have been collected and sent to laboratories. The investigation is ongoing.
Dextromethorphan (DXM or DM) is an antitussive (cough suppressant) drug. It is one of the active ingredients in many over-the-counter cold and cough medicines.
Dextromethorphan has also found other uses in medicine, ranging from pain relief to psychological applications.
Recreational use of DXM is an issue and problem for abuse in many places.
DXM when taken in high doses can produce gastrointestinal effects (vomiting, diarrhea, cramps) as well as hallucinations, dissociation, muscle spasms, blurred vision, fever, hypertension (high blood pressure), and a histamine release (itching sensations), and other neurological changes may occur as well.