A mother fears she will find her son dead after he became addicted to a drug sold at pharmacies.
A mother fears she will find her son dead after he became addicted to a drug sold at pharmacies.

Coast teens’ shock new drug addiction

A DESPERATE Gold Coast mother wants pharmacies to stop selling her junkie teenage son a powerful cough medicine before the "inevitable" happens - and she finds him dead.

The solo mother of four says her 17-year-old has become addicted to Rikodeine - a cough syrup available over the counter at chemists - and can "barely speak" or "stand" after using it every night.

The medication contains dihydrocodeine - a form of codeine and weak opioid, and comes with a host of serious side effects such as a slowed heartbeat, memory loss, blurred vision, agitation and hallucinations.

Long-term usage has been linked to seizures, urinary tract infections and irregular heart rate.

The woman said her 17-year-old son is one of "many" drinking cough syrup, mixed with soft drink and prescription drugs, for a cheap high.

"His friends' parents are all going through the same thing."

The mother urged other parents to be mindful if their children starting asking for them to buy the medicine for them.

The mixture provides a cheap high. Photo: Instagram
The mixture provides a cheap high. Photo: Instagram

She says her son began taking the dangerous cocktail - known as "lean" - about four months ago. His mother said he now used it every night, often mixing it with marijuana.

"At first I thought he was just mixing cordial with fizzy drink. I didn't think anything of it.

"I'm going to go (in to his room) one day and he will be dead. It's devastating but it's not going to shock me. It's inevitable.

"Every night he just wipes himself out. He can barely speak. He can't even stand up.

"He passes out every night with food all over him, ants crawling on him. I've slapped him so hard that I thought he was dead and he just looked at me and went back to sleep."

The teen - who lives with his mother and three sisters, the youngest of which is eight - even tried to trick his mother into buying it for him, by faking a cough and begging for medication before pharmacy staff alerted her to the rouse.

"He's also asked his grandmother for (prescription drugs). He'll make up an excuse for why he needs it."

Often it’s mixed with other drugs. Photo: Instagram
Often it’s mixed with other drugs. Photo: Instagram

His mother said she had tried but failed to stop him.

"I've collected bottles to take the police, but he keeps coming home with more.

"He lost his mind when I wouldn't give it to him. He started throwing furniture, he had wanted to take it out with him for the night.

"It's like Jekyll and Hyde. When he doesn't have any we deal with the fallout of that because he gets so angry he's punching holes in the walls, destroying the house. We're always walking on eggshells.

"He knows it's killing his insides. He's feeling the pain now, but he just can't help himself, he can't stop."

The mum said her son was regularly in trouble with police and she had begged, unsuccessfully, for court-appointed rehabilitation after the boy had started stealing from the family.

Social media posts show just how easy it is to snag the drug. Photo: Instagram
Social media posts show just how easy it is to snag the drug. Photo: Instagram

She said it was devastating to see him turn in to a junkie.

"He's had a couple of good jobs and when he's been working he hasn't had time to cause trouble or drink or do drugs.

"He wanted to go into a trade but he fell in with the wrong group.

"These American rappers have made (cough syrup) cool and quite a few have died from it, and now our idiot children are emulating them."

The mum is now pushing for the product to be restricted to prescription-only to make it harder to get.

"If these kids have to go to the doctor each time they want a bottle many won't bother.

"Keeping a register of who is asking for a script and how often will stop some of them from using it, it needs to happen."

Rikodeine cough syrup used to mix up 'lean'. Photo: Instagram
Rikodeine cough syrup used to mix up 'lean'. Photo: Instagram

On the Gold Coast Rikodeine is sold for as little as $12 for 100ml or $19 for 200ml, with small bottles lasting heavy users two to three days.

Pharmacists use their discretion to administer the drug, which can legally be sold to all-ages.

They told the Bulletin they were well-aware of the trend, and did their best to curb it.

"We try to keep an eye on everyone but it's easy for them to slip through the cracks," one said.

"Some people do use it for legitimate reasons but at this stage sadly they seem to be the minority.

"Some weeks we sell none, and other weeks we sell a lot of it."

Another said it was mostly boys aged 14 to 17 who came in trying to buy it.

Pharmacists said suspicious customers also tried to buy other brands which use the same active ingredient but Rikodeine was by far the most popular at the moment.