Police in Gauteng have begun investigating the deaths of two young women who were found dead in their residences at the Vaal University of Technology on Monday 26 October having taken ill the night before.
Police report that the women became sick after concocting a cocktail consisting of alcohol and cough syrup, and having retired to their separate rooms for the night, both failed to emerge.
Students found in dorms after taking ill night prior
Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said that the bodies of the two students, aged 21 and 22-years-old, were found by fellow students on Monday morning.
“It is reported that the two female students from Vaal University of Technology had taken some drinks and cough syrup when they informed their fellow students that they were not feeling well,” he said. “Both students were taken to separate rooms at the students’ residences in Vanderbijlpark.”
The women did not emerge from their dorms though, concerns peers who made a grizzly discovery when they went to check in.
“When they were checked the following morning, it was discovered that they were not breathing. Paramedics were called and both students were certified dead,” said Masondo.
Cough syrup and alcohol combo a concerning trend
The abuse of cough syrup that contains codeine has been a concerning trend in South Africa for a number of years.
Cough syrup with codeine can be purchased without a prescription, making it all too accessible, and when mixed with cool-drinks such as sprite, can cause the inducing of a coma, suffering from respiratory-related illnesses, cyanosis (turning blue due to lack of oxygen), hypertension, non-reactive pupils and convulsions, according to the Alcohol Rehab Guide.
When combined with alcohol, the risks are even greater.
“Combining alcohol and Codeine is extremely dangerous as the mixture intensifies the effects of the other, which increases the risk of overdose and long-term health damage. Alcohol can cause narcotic pain relievers like Codeine to rapidly release, resulting in dangerously high blood levels and intoxication.”
Respiratory depression caused by combo
They said that the most dangerous side effect of the cocktail is the severe respiratory depression that can occur.
“Respiratory depression causes irregular breathing in the user, which reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and body,” they said. “This deprivation of oxygen can then result in long-term damage to major organ systems and even death. Abusing alcohol and Codeine together also increases the risk of liver and kidney damage.”
The women’s bodies will be taken for toxicology and postmortem in order to confirm the precise cause of their deaths, confirmed Masonda.