33 people die and 54 are hospitalized after drinking cough syrup

Cough syrup illustration 
By: Aarav Sen 

33 people died and another 54 people were hospitalized after drinking cough syrup to get high, according to police reports from Pakistan.

Authorities are investigating the source of the cough syrup believed to have killed 33 people in eastern Pakistan in the past three days, a government official said Saturday, the second time in recent months that the drug is suspected to have caused mass deaths.

The deaths from the cough syrup occurred in the city of Gujranwala, and nearby villages around the city, Abdul Jabbar Shaheen, the top administrative official in Gujranwala, said. Another 54 people were being treated in hospitals in the city, and are also believed to have used the syrup.

Those involved are believed to be workers or drug addicts who drank the syrup to get high, Shaheen said.

Chemical samples collected from the victims' stomachs contained dextromethorphan, a synthetic morphine derivative used in cough syrup that can have mind-altering effects if consumed in large quantities, Shaheen said.

Police are investigating whether people living in Gujranwala drank too much of it, or if there is a problem with the drug itself, he said.

Twenty people were killed in the neighboring city of Lahore, after drinking bad cough syrup sold under the brand name Tyno. The reason for the deaths at the time was that drug addicts drank too much cough syrup in order to get high, according to the outcome of an investigation.

Shaheen said the cough syrup involved in incidents around Gujranwala, were not sold under a single brand. He said that there were some people in the city involved in the business of making cough syrup specifically to sell to drug addicts and authorities were trying to arrest the culprits.

Authorities closed a pharmaceutical company based in Lahore, after cough syrup belonging to the company were found in possession of some of those affected in Gujranwala, and are investigating whether it caused any of the deaths, Shaheen said.