19 July 2019
Authorities at Huangguang and Futian ports in Shenzhen arrested some people last week for smuggling banned cough syrup. Photos:
Authorities at Huangguang and Futian ports in Shenzhen arrested some people last week for smuggling banned cough syrup. Photos:

Codeine-laced cough syrup can land you in trouble in China

People are being warned that they could face arrest if they try to take Codeine-laced cough syrup into mainland China as authorities are stepping up vigilance against banned substances.

Codeine, a sleep-inducing substance derived from morphine, has been classified as illegal drug in mainland China.

People are advised against carrying cough syrup containing the prohibited substance as Chinese officials are seeking to combat a drug addiction problem, am730 reported.

The warning comes as some people, taking advantage of difference in rules between Hong Kong and China, have been making bulk purchases in Hong Kong of cough syrup laced with Codeine and Ephedrine Hydrochloride and smuggling it to the mainland.

The chemicals are ingredients of the drug methamphetamine.

As mainland authorities have tightened the law to combat drug addiction, anyone carrying cough syrup containing the illegal substances could be charged with drug smuggling.

The warning is being shared on social media following a message posted by a netizen.

“Hello friends, as the situation has become serious, I would like to tell you that if your friends ask you to help buying the XXX cough syrup in Hong Kong, don’t help them. According to the law in mainland China, the cough syrup is a kind of drug and is not allowed for import or export. It will be deemed as drug smuggling crime,” the person wrote.

“I have a colleague who had been arrested because of this. It has been three months now since his arrest, and we don’t know how long he will stay behind bars.”

The cough syrup mentioned above contains Codeine and Ephedrine Hydrochloride that can be sold legally in Hong Kong. The ingredients can be extracted and purified into methamphetamine.

Last May, mainland authorities included cough syrup that contains Codeine as psychotropic drug of category II. Chinese residents can only buy the medicine with a doctor’s prescription.

Last year, Customs officials at Shenzhen’s Luohu port arrested a man who was trying to smuggle 21 bottles of cough syrup.

In more recent cases, five people were arrested at Huangguang and Futian Ports during the Chinese New Year holiday period.

William Chui Chun-ming, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, said medicines that contain Codeine cannot be sold directly to Hong Kong public, and that people can only obtain them through pharmacists or doctors.

Codeine is usually used as painkiller and to treat cough syndrome.

“A bottle is enough for a week. If the patient does not do any better, he or she will have to change to another medicine. It is not available for bulk-buying under normal circumstances. It is not known if some pharmacy staff has sold them in the grey market,” Chui said.

He said the health department should ban drugs that contain Codeine as there are many substitutes that won’t cause side effects such as addiction as Codeine does.

However, Lau Oi-kwok, chairman of Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy, said he believes that it shouldn’t be a problem if residents only carry a bottle or two for self-use during travel.

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