Tussionex is a proprietary drug that is designed to suppress coughing. It contains the narcotic hydrocodone as an active ingredient. Hydrocodone is a partially synthetic substance that functions as an opioid. It is synthesized from codeine. Codeine is derived from the opium poppy, and is classed as an opiate drug, which is why drugs like hydrocodone are opioids. “Opioids” describes drugs that have opium-like properties.
Hydrocodone works as an opiate, and opiates suppress certain activity in the brain. This places them in the category of drugs known as depressants. Hydrocodone reduces activity in the brain’s cough center. Coughing is a reflex action controlled by this center. By suppressing activity there, the drug suppresses the urge to cough.
Tussionex also contains chlorpheniramine, which is an antihistamine. Chlorpheniramine reduces the amount of mucus produced by the lungs and other respiratory organs.
Because Tussionex contains hydrocodone, it can also be used as a medication to relieve pain, although this is not its primary purpose. People who are looking for pain relief should look for more appropriate pain-relieving drugs.
Hydrocodone was first synthesized in Germany way back in 1920. It gained approval from the FDA in 1943 under the name “Dicodid.” For regulatory reasons, hydrocodone cannot be dispensed in liquid form unless it is in a compound with at least one other substance. It is commonly paired with paracetamol.
Initially, compounds like Tussionex were available as over-the-counter medications. It was not until 2006 that the FDA began to recall some hydrocodone compounds, due to complications, including deaths, in children under six.
Tussionex is dispensed in liquid form or tablet form. The normal liquid dose is either a 2.5ml or 5ml measure (a teaspoonful) taken every 12 hours.
Classification as Schedule II drug
In October 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration re-classified hydrocodone as a Schedule II drug. It was previously a Schedule III drug. The re-classification impacts on compounds like Tussionex that contain hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is now placed in the same schedule as drugs like cocaine, methadone and opium.
Schedule II drugs are considered to be drugs with a high risk of abuse, with a strong potential to induce severe physical and/or psychological dependency. The re-classification of hydrocodone will make it harder for patients to get access to the drug, because tighter regulations apply to how Schedule II drugs can be dispensed.
The new classification means people now must present prescriptions in person, and can no longer phone or fax them in. Additionally, prescriptions must be written by a fully qualified doctor. This means that prescriptions for hydrocodone-based products written by nurses or physician’s assistants will no longer be accepted by pharmacists. Automatic prescription refills are no longer permitted.
In normal use, the drug soothes coughs. Misuse of Tussionex can cause some or all of these symptoms:
- Nasal bleeding
- Sinus infection
- Respiratory problems
- Liver damage
- Cardiac problems
According to IMS Health, drugs containing hydrocodone and paracetamol were the most prescribed in the USA in 2013, with over 135m prescriptions being issued. This widespread availability has led to widespread abuse. It is the opiate effect of hydrocodone that appeals to drug abusers. After alcohol and tobacco, opiates, which include heroin, are the most widely abused drugs, and among the most highly addictive.
It is not known precisely why opiates are so addictive. Their effect in the body is to induce a sense of euphoria, which is very pleasant. Additionally, many people experience a warm, pleasant sensation spreading throughout the entire body. The body enjoys the euphoria and pleasant feeling so much that it craves the same again. This leads to the very quick onset of addiction.
The body quickly adjusts to the intake of the opiate drugs, and the pleasant sensations and euphoria begin to wane. This prompts the takers to increase the dosage to achieve the same degree of pleasantness. A perpetual cycle of the body adjusting to doses and the individual increasing dosage to achieve the “high” spirals out of control.
Eventually, a person will become severely addicted, and will struggle to live a normal life. His or her entire waking hours will be spent either trying to source more opiates, or alternative drugs, or being unable to function normally because he or she is under the influence of the drug.
Tussionex is a highly addictive drug. People can develop a dependency on it, and it is widely abused. As people’s tolerance to the active opiate ingredient in the drug grows, they will often take Tussionex with other sedatives, opiates or alcohol to enhance its affects.
The first stage in the treatment of Tussionex is to get people off the drug through detoxification. Withdrawal symptoms will normally manifest themselves quickly, but it could be up to 72 hours after the last dosage before they appear. They include:
- Excessive sweating and fever
- Rapid mood swings
- Excessive rage
- Increased heart rate
Once the detoxification phase is completed, long-term treatment by a professional addiction counselor is highly recommended to improve the chances of staying off the drug.