Promethazine Side Effects: What is Promethazine?
Promethazine (Phenergan) is an Antihistamine derived from phenothiazine. It is available as a tablet, solution, and rectal suppository. In tablet form, it can be cut or crushed and taken with or without food. Promethazine works by blocking histamine during an allergic reaction. Histamine is an organic compound released during a local immune response. Promethazine also reduces the number of signals shot off by the brain, which induce vomiting. When in tablet form, it can interact with other medications.
The introduction of an Antihistamine to other substances changes its common effects. This change makes Antihistamines popular among medical professionals during combination therapy. For example, when mixed with Opioids like Meperidine, Promethazine can help as a pain reliever. If taken with Phenobarbital, a Barbiturate, Promethazine can cause severe drowsiness.
Promethazine Side Effects: Promethazine is used for conditions like:
- Allergies (watery eyes, redness, rashes)
- Motion sickness
- Common cold symptoms (sneezing, cough, and runny nose)
- Reactions to blood or plasma
- Anxiety before surgery
- Pain after surgery
- As a sleep aid
Though this Antihistamine helps control specific symptoms, it does not treat them. Promethazine also does not speed up recovery. To learn how the drug interacts with other prescriptions, always consult a healthcare professional.
Promethazine Side Effects & Abuse
Promethazine affects the body’s ability to regulate inflammation, alertness, and pain control. By preventing the release of histamine, it causes sleepiness and deep relaxation. This drug increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun and increases the risk of sunburn.
When abused, several negative Promethazine side effects are suffered, such as:
- Changes in blood pressure or dizziness
- Allergic skin reactions and sensitivity to the sun
- Hallucinations or confusion
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Blurred or double vision
- Over excitement
- Abnormal movements
- Dry mouth
- Ear ringing
- Organ failure (brain, heart, skin, blood, stomach, intestines, and lungs)
- Breathing problems or abnormal breathing
Though dangerous on its own, this Antihistamine can be lethal when combined with other illicit drugs. Promethazine abuse is frequent in patients struggling with coexisting addictions. In a recent study published by the National Library of Medicine, researchers discovered compelling evidence of Promethazine’s non-medical use. One-quarter of the patients in the study who were using Methadone were also taking Promethazine. Out of the sample of Methadone users, only 15% had an active Promethazine prescription.
Promethazine Side Effects: Risks Of Abuse
Common and serious risks of promethazine abuse include:
- Extreme nausea and vomiting: Most individuals who abuse promethazine in high doses experience significant gastrointestinal and digestive issues.
- A lack of coordination: Because promethazine is a central nervous depressant it significantly slows cognitive functioning and response times when abused. Individuals who abuse this medication consistently might find that their coordination becomes permanently impaired. They might feel dizzy and unstable, and find that they have a difficult time standing up straight – or standing up at all.
- Memory loss: Not only does promethazine-codeine cough syrup cause temporary memory loss (black outs) but consistently abusing this chemical substance can negatively affect memory long-term.
- Hallucinations: When taken in very high doses promethazine can lead to visual and auditory hallucinations, which can in turn lead to paranoia and panic attacks.
- Abnormal heartbeat and changes to blood pressure: Promethazine enters the bloodstream and has an overall effect on the cardiovascular system.
- Seizures: Seizures are common when promethazine-codeine cough syrup is taken in high doses. Seizures are also a potential symptom of promethazine withdrawal.
- Fatal overdose: This is especially common when promethazine-codeine cough syrup is being abused. Both promethazine and codeine act as central nervous system depressants, and taking more than intended can slow or completely stop the lungs and the heart. Respiratory depression is not uncommon and it is often fatal.
These are only several examples of the more common risk factors involved with repetitive promethazine use. If you have been actively abusing this chemical substance in any form, seeking professional help from a reputable treatment center is of the utmost importance.
Promethazine Side Effects: Signs and Symptoms Of Abuse
If you believe that you (or someone close to you) may be struggling with a promethazine abuse disorder, there are several telltale signs and symptoms to look for. There are many symptoms exclusive to promethazine-codeine cough syrup abuse.
Symptoms of Promethazine abuse include:
- Finding empty cough syrup bottles in the trash or stashed throughout the house
- Finding other potential “sizzurp” ingredients like soda and candy
- Irritability and aggression
- Mood swings
- A loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
- Changes to social circles
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- A lack of attention paid to personal hygiene
- Social isolation from family members and close friends
- Apparent sleepiness/drowsiness
- An obvious lack of coordination
- Searching through medicine cabinets (looking for cough syrup)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when promethazine is not readily available
Promethazine Side Effects: Withdrawal
When it comes to promethazine on its own, the symptoms of withdrawal are typically very mild and can be easily treated with over-the-counter pain medications. However, symptoms associated with promethazine-codeine cough syrup withdrawal can be severe. Codeine is a habit-forming pain medication, and those that consistently take this medication tend to develop a physical tolerance rather quickly – when tolerance builds, higher doses are taken, and the symptoms of withdrawal continue to grow in severity.
Common symptoms associated with promethazine-codeine cough syrup withdrawal include:
- Insomnia and other sleep-related issues
- Hypersensitivity to light and sound
- Intense and persistent headaches
- Body tremors and uncontrollable shaking
- Severe stomach cramping
- Flu-like symptoms, including runny nose, watery eyes, fatigue, general aches and pain, nausea and vomiting
Promethazine Side Effects: Opioids And Abuse
Opioids, Promethazine, and abuse are highly correlated. Methadone use for opioid addiction treatment is linked to Promethazine abuse. Antihistamine strengthens the Opioid “high.” The enhancing ability makes the drug popular among people with an addiction disorder. Promethazine abuse is common among injection drug users, patients with chronic pain, and at-risk teenagers. Sadly, people without prior drug disorders are becoming addicted to Promethazine as well.
Promethazine Side Effects: Opioid Epidemic
The rise of the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s and continues today. In 2016, about 11.5 million Americans were misusing prescription Opioids. Almost 450,000 people have died due to this epidemic.
The fight against the opioid epidemic is growing. Yet, medical professionals prescribed the drug to 191 million Americans in 2017. These individuals are usually non-experienced drug users who run a huge risk of becoming addicts. Prescription Opioids can make anyone addicted to them. 1 in 4 patients receiving long-term Opioid therapy struggle with Opioid addiction.
Once addicted, it can be hard to stop, and many turn to rehab. While in recovery from opioid addiction, a popular method used to treat patients is tapering with Methadone. These tapering treatments help individuals wean off Opioids slowly. They do not, however, provide the intense high some patients want. To feel that surge, again, many turns to Promethazine, and the addiction cycle continues.
Reclaim Your Life From Promethazine Side Effects
Promethazine addiction & abuse are serious conditions that can cause major health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this by detoxification and treatment to ease Promethazine side effects with professional and safe care. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can give you further information about the abuse of this drug. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Lynch, K. L., Shapiro, B. J., Coffa, D., Novak, S. P., & Kral, A. H. (2015). Promethazine use among chronic pain patients. Drug and alcohol dependence, 150, 92–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.02.023