Consumer Protection Council

Public Service Warning Regarding Consumption of Medication Containing Codeine

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Pursuant to Sections 2(c), (e), and (j), Consumer Protection Council Act 2004

Codeine is an opiate, and one of many in the opioids family. It is therefore classified as a narcotic substance, although not an illegal drug. Codeine is largely used as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. As such, it is an active ingredient in some expectorants or cough syrups.

Currently, and in exercise of the regulatory authority of The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), expectorants/cough syrups containing codeine may not be dispensed as non-prescriptive Over the Counter (OTC) medication. 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, constitutes drug abuse, and presents significant medical risks including possible injury, risky behaviour, addiction, and in extreme cases (especially pediatrics), fatality.

In particular, 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.

Emerging professional medical and regulatory preference is 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.

The Council therefore advises that cough medication with codeine should be prescribed, dispensed and administered in an abundance of caution and only in strict compliance with professional medical direction, and in any case not prescribed for, dispensed to, or administered to minors.

The Council also reminds consumers that violation of law with respect to dispensing, possessing and consuming illegal drugs, or legal drugs illegally is criminal and may subject offenders to apprehension, detention and prosecution, including by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and upon conviction, a sentence to a term of imprisonment.

Babatunde Irukera

Director General

Download this document