France Outlaws OTC Codeine

Party’s over. In line with a new awareness of the widespread abuse of opiates in the Western Hemisphere, France last month instituted its own law requiring a doctor’s prescription to buy painkillers and cough suppressant medications that contain codeine. Paderyl and Prontalgine, two popular medications for symptoms such as headaches or dry coughs, will no longer be available at pharmacies without what the French call an “ordinance.”

city of syrupEurope has not seen anything close to the carnage that opiates have caused in the United States, since hydrocodone and oxycodone, in pills such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, respectively, are not available here. (French doctors often prescribe opium or codeine for severe pain.) It was Purple Drank, the buzz-inducing mix of cough syrup and soda pop, that the French ministry of heath was concerned about. A handful of overdoses of the sticky stuff, mainly by adolescents, was enough to prompt the new law. (Purple Drank originated in the Southern US hip-hop culture; some of the artists who rapped about it died of overdoses.)