Cough syrups, painkillers - cold comfort for drug addicts

New Delhi: For many sipping a hot cup of
coffee or tea with friends and family cosied around a heater
is enough to brave the cold. For others, a bottle of cough
syrup, provides the "high" to survive long winter nights.

From students to professionals to ragpickers, abuse of
prescription drugs can be found across all segments of
society, with people commonly using them as sedatives, say

Anindya, a 45-year-old rickshaw puller from West
Bengal, often downs a bottle of cough syrup after a long day
at work. All cough syrups contain codeine, a morphine extract
responsible for a "high" feeling when consumed in large

"Cough syrups, painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs are
the most abused prescription drugs and hence have a high sale
in the capital," says Dr Chandra M Gulhati, editor of the
civil society journal `Monthly Index of Medical Specialities`
and a former drug expert with WHO.

Either voluntary or by accident, addiction is
described by doctors as a stepwise process. Addicts first
start off with cough syrup, graduating to painkillers and
later resorts to anti-anxiety drugs.

"Once the body becomes resistant, he combines either
of the above two and at later levels, consumes alcohol along
with any combination to get the extra kick," says Dr Gulhati.

While some do it for fun and to stay `high` in their
platonic world away from daily stress, others like insomniacs
and those suffering chronic pain turn addicts accidentally.