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Can Promethazine Abuse Turn into Addiction?

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Teenagers who gravitate towards substance abuse practices have become especially creative at putting together ingredients that produce a “high” effect. No doubt, age-based limitations have brought about the wide range of substances abused by this age group, with cough syrups becoming part of the mix.

Cough syrups containing codeine and promethazine in particular can produce euphoric effects when used in excess. According to the Journal of Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, the year 2012 saw an estimated 74,995 cases involving cough syrup-related overdose exposures in the United States, with 9,400 resulting from abuse practices.

Not surprisingly, promethazine abuse in this form can place a person at risk of opiate addiction much like any other form of opiate abuse. Understanding the risks surrounding codeine-promethazine abuse can help you or someone you know avoid the pitfalls of addiction.

Promethazine Abuse

Promethazine, a substance often used in codeine-based cough syrup preparations, acts as a decongestant agent. Like most decongestant or antihistamine agents, promethazine produces sedative properties that only work to reinforce codeine’s depressant effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, high doses of promethazine combined with codeine greatly increases the dangers that come with abusing cough syrup preparations. Promethazine abuse commonly takes the form of combining cough syrup with soda, alcohol or hard candies.

In effect, promethazine and codeine both work to slow the body’s central nervous system activities, which can have cumulative effects over time.

Call 800-291-1732 (Who Answers?) for information on rehab options for cough syrup abuse.

The Promethazine Abuse-Addiction Cycle

Promethazine Abuse

Abusing promethazine can cause physical and psychological dependence.

Much like any other form of opiate-type abuse, the promethazine abuse-addiction cycle evolves over time as the effects of the drug cause ongoing interference with the brain’s chemical system. Promethazine’s ability to reinforce codeine’s effects helps create a cycle made up of the following components:

In effect, the promethazine abuse aspect of repeated cough syrup use works to speed up the rate at which a person develops an addiction problem. After a certain point, the brain’s tolerance for the drug becomes so high that users must combine other drug types, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines and even heroin in order to experience the desired “high” effect.

Signs of Promethazine Addiction

  • Frequent episodes of withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Spending increasing amounts of time with other drug users
  • Money problems
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Problems with law
  • Declining health status
  • Decline in grooming/hygiene
  • Inability to face the day without the effects of the drug


While promethazine abuse carries a considerable risk for abuse and addiction in general, this is especially the case for teenagers. Substance abuse in any form can have long-term repercussions considering the physical and psychological development stages that take place during adolescence.

Teenagers affected by addiction will likely carry addiction behaviors well into adulthood. The effects of substance abuse can also stunt a young person’s cognitive abilities and greatly destabilize his or her emotional well-being for years to come.

If you suspect your teenager or someone you know may be engaging in promethazine abuse, call 800-291-1732 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addiction counselors about available treatment options.

Is Cough Drop Addiction A Real Problem?

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