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Unraveling the Mystery: Can Promethazine Be Abused?

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

Promethazine, a medication initially intended for allergy relief, nausea, and motion sickness, has unfortunately found a place in the realm of substance abuse. This article provides a thorough understanding of promethazine abuse, shedding light on its dangers, and outlining how California Prime Recovery can assist in overcoming this addiction.

What is Promethazine?

Promethazine is a medication belonging to the class of phenothiazines. It has various uses, including as an antihistamine, sedative, and antiemetic (anti-nausea).

Promethazine Types and Dosages

Promethazine is an antihistamine medication that is commonly used to treat allergies, motion sickness, and nausea. It is available in various formulations, including oral tablets, oral solution, and rectal suppositories. The dosages can vary depending on the specific condition being treated, the formulation, and individual factors.

Here are common types and dosages of promethazine:

  1. Oral Tablets:

    • Promethazine tablets are available in strengths, including 12.5 mg, 25 mg, and 50 mg.
    • The typical adult dosage for the treatment of allergic reactions or motion sickness is 25 mg taken orally before bedtime or as needed.
  2. Oral Solution:

    • Promethazine oral solution is available in concentrations, including 6.25 mg/5 mL and 25 mg/5 mL.
    • The dosages for the oral solution can vary based on the specific condition and age of the individual. For example, for allergic reactions or motion sickness in adults, a common dosage is 12.5 to 25 mg taken before bedtime or as needed.
  3. Rectal Suppositories:

    • Promethazine suppositories are available in strengths, including 12.5 mg, 25 mg, and 50 mg.
    • The dosages for rectal suppositories are similar to oral dosages and are often prescribed for individuals who have difficulty taking medications by mouth.

It’s important to note that dosages may vary based on the specific medical condition being treated, the age of the individual, and other factors. The information provided here is general, and individuals should always follow the specific dosing instructions provided by their healthcare provider.

Dosage Guidelines

Dosage guidelines for promethazine can vary based on the specific formulation, the condition being treated, and individual factors such as age and overall health. It’s important to follow the prescribed instructions provided by a healthcare professional. Here are general dosage guidelines for different forms of promethazine:

  1. Oral Tablets or Syrup:

    • Allergic Conditions (Adults): 25 mg orally every 4 to 6 hours as needed.
    • Motion Sickness (Adults): 25 mg orally 30 to 60 minutes before travel, then every 8 to 12 hours as needed.
    • Nausea and Vomiting (Adults): 12.5 to 25 mg orally every 4 to 6 hours as needed.
  2. Rectal Suppositories:

    • Dosages for rectal suppositories are similar to those for oral formulations. Consult with a healthcare professional for specific recommendations.
  3. Sedation (Insomnia or Anxiety):

    • Dosages for sedation may vary based on the intended use and individual response. It is typically lower than the dosages used for allergic conditions or nausea.
  4. Pediatric Dosages:

    • Dosages for children are weight-based and should be determined by a healthcare provider.
    • Promethazine is generally not recommended for use in children under the age of two due to the risk of respiratory depression.

It’s crucial to:

  • Always use the prescribed dose and not exceed recommended amounts.
  • Follow the specific instructions provided by the healthcare provider.
  • Avoid using promethazine in larger amounts or for longer than recommended.
  • Inform healthcare professionals about other medications being taken to prevent potential interactions.

Promethazine should be used with caution, especially in certain populations such as young children and the elderly, as it may cause respiratory depression. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized dosage recommendations based on individual health conditions.

Promethazine Uses

Promethazine is used for several medical purposes, and its uses include:

  1. Allergic Conditions:

    • Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever): Promethazine is often prescribed to relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including sneezing, runny nose, itching, and watery eyes.
  2. Motion Sickness:

    • Prevention and Treatment: It is used to prevent and treat motion sickness by reducing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting:

    • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting (PONV): Promethazine can be used to manage nausea and vomiting after surgical procedures.
    • Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting (CINV): It may be prescribed to alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with certain chemotherapy regimens.
  4. Insomnia:

    • Sedation: Due to its sedative properties, promethazine may be used as a sleep aid in the treatment of insomnia.
  5. Adjunctive Therapy:

    • Adjunct to Anesthesia: In some cases, promethazine may be used as an adjunct to anesthesia to help reduce anxiety and induce relaxation.
  6. Management of Itching and Skin Conditions:

    • Relief of Itching: Promethazine may be used to relieve itching associated with allergic reactions, hives, or other skin conditions.

Promethazine Efficacy

The efficacy of promethazine is related to its ability to block the effects of histamine, a natural substance in the body that plays a role in allergic reactions. As a first-generation antihistamine, promethazine effectively mitigates symptoms associated with histamine release. Here are some aspects of its efficacy:

  1. Antihistamine Activity:

    • Symptom Relief: Promethazine is effective in alleviating symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, and watery eyes that are commonly associated with allergic reactions.
  2. Anti-Nausea and Anti-Vomiting Effects:

    • Motion Sickness: It is effective in preventing and treating motion sickness by reducing nausea and vomiting.
    • Postoperative and Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting: Promethazine can be used to manage nausea and vomiting following surgery or chemotherapy.
  3. Sedative Properties:

    • Calming Effect: The sedative effects of promethazine make it useful for inducing sleep and reducing anxiety, contributing to its efficacy in managing insomnia.
  4. Adjunct to Anesthesia:

    • Anxiolysis: When used as an adjunct to anesthesia, promethazine may provide anxiolysis (anxiety reduction) in addition to its antihistamine effects.
  5. Management of Itching:

    • Relief from Itching: Promethazine is effective in relieving itching associated with allergic reactions, hives, and certain skin conditions.

How Does Promethazine Work in the Brain and Body?

Promethazine works by blocking the effects of histamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain and a natural substance in the body that plays a crucial role in allergic reactions. As a first-generation antihistamine, promethazine exerts its effects by antagonizing histamine receptors. Here’s a breakdown of how promethazine works in the brain and body:

  1. Histamine Receptor Blockade:

    • Histamine Release: During an allergic reaction or exposure to allergens, the body releases histamine.
    • Histamine Receptors: Histamine exerts its effects by binding to specific receptors (H1 receptors) in various tissues, including the respiratory system, blood vessels, and skin.
  2. Antagonism of H1 Receptors:

    • Blocking Action: Promethazine binds to and blocks H1 receptors, preventing histamine from exerting its effects on these receptors.
    • Reduction of Symptoms: By blocking H1 receptors, promethazine helps reduce symptoms associated with histamine release, such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, and watery eyes.
  3. Sedative Effects:

    • Central Nervous System (CNS) Depression: Promethazine has central nervous system depressant effects, contributing to its sedative properties.
    • Sedation and Calming: The sedative effects can induce a calming effect, making promethazine useful in managing insomnia and anxiety.
  4. Anti-Nausea and Anti-Vomiting Effects:

    • Nausea and Vomiting Pathways: Promethazine acts on the central nervous system to suppress pathways involved in nausea and vomiting.
    • Motion Sickness and Other Causes: It is effective in preventing and treating nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, surgery, and chemotherapy.
  5. Other Actions:

    • Alpha-Adrenergic Blockade: Promethazine also has some alpha-adrenergic blocking properties, contributing to its therapeutic effects.

How Long Does Promethazine Stay in Your System?

The half-life of promethazine, which refers to the time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body, can vary based on factors such as the individual’s metabolism, age, and liver function. In general, the half-life of promethazine is approximately 10 to 19 hours.

It’s important to note that the half-life can be influenced by individual variations, and the duration of action or therapeutic effects may differ from the elimination half-life. The sedative effects of promethazine, for example, may last for a shorter or longer duration than the elimination half-life.

Promethazine Onset and Duration

The onset and duration of action of promethazine can vary depending on the specific formulation and the route of administration. Here are general guidelines for the onset and duration of different forms of promethazine:

  1. Oral Tablets or Syrup:

    • Onset: The onset of action for oral formulations is typically within 20 to 30 minutes after ingestion.
    • Duration: The effects may last for approximately 4 to 6 hours, but individual variations can occur.
  2. Rectal Suppositories:

    • Onset: The onset of action for rectal suppositories is usually within 15 to 30 minutes.
    • Duration: Similar to oral formulations, the effects may last for approximately 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Sedative Effects (Duration):

    • Promethazine is known for its sedative properties, contributing to its use as a sleep aid or for anxiety reduction.
    • The duration of sedation can extend beyond the half-life, and individuals may experience drowsiness for an extended period.

It’s important to note that individual responses to promethazine can vary, and factors such as age, overall health, and the presence of other medications can influence the onset and duration of action. Additionally, promethazine’s sedative effects may be more pronounced, and caution is advised, especially in certain populations such as young children and the elderly.

Storage and Disposal


  • Store promethazine in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Keep it at room temperature, and avoid extreme temperatures or humidity.
  • Follow any specific storage instructions provided with the medication.


  • Dispose of promethazine according to local regulations or guidelines.
  • Do not flush medications down the toilet unless instructed to do so.
  • Check with your local pharmacy or healthcare provider for medication disposal programs or recommendations.
  • If no specific instructions are provided, consider using a drug take-back program or a medication disposal bag.

Always follow the specific instructions given by your healthcare provider or pharmacist regarding the storage and disposal of promethazine or any medication. If you have any questions or concerns, seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

Promethazine Side Effects and Risks

Promethazine, like any medication, can cause side effects. Here are both short-term and potential long-term side effects associated with promethazine use:

Short-Term Side Effects:

  1. Drowsiness and Sedation: Promethazine is known for its sedative properties, which can cause drowsiness.
  2. Dry Mouth: A common side effect is dryness in the mouth.
  3. Blurred Vision: Temporary blurred vision or difficulty focusing may occur.
  4. Constipation: Some individuals may experience constipation as a short-term side effect.
  5. Urinary Retention: Difficulty urinating may occur in some cases.
  6. Confusion: Particularly in older adults, confusion or impaired cognitive function may occur.

Long-Term Side Effects (with prolonged use or misuse):

  1. Tardive Dyskinesia: In rare cases, prolonged use of antipsychotic medications like promethazine has been associated with tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder.
  2. Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS): Another rare but serious condition, NMS can occur with the use of antipsychotic medications, leading to fever, muscle rigidity, and altered mental status.
  3. Dependency and Withdrawal: Prolonged use can lead to physical dependency, and sudden discontinuation may result in withdrawal symptoms.

It’s important to note that the majority of individuals using promethazine for short-term purposes, such as managing allergies or nausea, are unlikely to experience long-term side effects. Long-term use is typically reserved for specific medical conditions under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Promethazine and Alcohol Use

Combining promethazine with alcohol can enhance the sedative effects of both substances, leading to increased drowsiness, dizziness, and impairment of cognitive and motor skills. Therefore, it is generally not recommended to consume alcohol while taking promethazine. The concurrent use of alcohol and promethazine can result in:

  1. Increased Sedation: Both promethazine and alcohol have central nervous system depressant effects. Combining them can intensify sedation and impair alertness.

  2. Dizziness and Lightheadedness: The combination may lead to an increased risk of dizziness and lightheadedness.

  3. Impaired Coordination: Motor coordination and reaction times may be significantly affected, increasing the risk of accidents or injuries.

  4. Respiratory Depression: Combining promethazine with alcohol may contribute to respiratory depression, particularly in higher doses, which can be dangerous.

  5. CNS Effects: The central nervous system (CNS) effects may be additive, causing more pronounced CNS depression when both substances are used together.

It is crucial to follow healthcare provider recommendations and prescription instructions regarding the use of promethazine and to avoid alcohol while taking the medication. If you have questions or concerns about potential interactions, consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Can Promethazine Be Abused?

In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in the abuse of promethazine, often in conjunction with opioids or alcohol, to enhance their effects. This trend is particularly prevalent among young adults and in certain urban music cultures, where it is glamorized. The consequences of such misuse are grave and multifaceted, impacting individuals, families, and communities.

Promethazine is typically abused by taking it in ways other than prescribed by a healthcare professional. Some common methods of abuse include:

  1. Oral Ingestion: Abusers may take higher doses of promethazine orally, either by swallowing multiple pills or consuming liquid formulations.

  2. Combination with Other Substances: Promethazine is sometimes abused in combination with other drugs, such as opioids or benzodiazepines, to enhance the sedative effects. This can be particularly dangerous as it increases the risk of respiratory depression and other adverse effects.

  3. Injection: In some cases, individuals may misuse promethazine by injecting it. This method can lead to rapid and intense effects, but it also carries a higher risk of complications and health hazards.

  4. Inhalation: Although less common, some people may attempt to abuse promethazine by inhaling it. This can involve crushing tablets and inhaling the powder, which is not a safe or recommended practice.

Is Promethazine Addictive?

Promethazine itself is not considered highly addictive. It is primarily an antihistamine with sedative properties, and its potential for abuse is generally low. However, like many medications, it can cause physical dependence with prolonged use.

The risk of dependence and abuse is often associated with medications that have stronger psychoactive effects, and promethazine is generally not used for recreational purposes. It is more commonly prescribed for conditions such as allergies, motion sickness, nausea, and sedation.

Why is Promethazine Abused?

  • Euphoria and Sedation: The sedative properties of promethazine can create a state of relaxation and euphoria, which becomes addictive.
  • Social Influence: Peer pressure and cultural influences play a significant role in the initial experimentation and continued misuse of promethazine.

Dangers of Mixing Promethazine with Other Substances

  • Respiratory Depression: Combining promethazine with other substances, especially opioids or benzodiazepines, can lead to severe respiratory depression. This is a life-threatening condition where breathing slows down or stops.

  • Central Nervous System Depression: Both promethazine and certain substances (e.g., alcohol, sedatives) can depress the central nervous system. Combining them increases the risk of excessive sedation, drowsiness, and impaired coordination.

  • Increased Risk of Overdose: Mixing promethazine with other drugs raises the risk of overdose, as the combined effects may be more potent than when each substance is used alone. Overdose can result in serious health complications, including coma or death.

  • Cardiovascular Effects: Some substances, when combined with promethazine, may lead to cardiovascular problems such as low blood pressure or heart rhythm abnormalities.

  • Impaired Cognitive Function: The combination of substances may impair cognitive function, affecting judgment, concentration, and the ability to perform tasks that require alertness.

  • Additive Side Effects: Promethazine itself can cause side effects like dizziness and blurred vision. Combining it with other substances may intensify these side effects, leading to increased risks of accidents or injuries.

Recognizing the Signs of Promethazine Abuse

Early detection of promethazine abuse can be pivotal in preventing long-term health consequences. Some signs to watch out for include:

  • Behavioral Indicators: Changes in social circles, secretive behavior, financial problems, and neglecting responsibilities are common among those abusing promethazine.
  • Physical Symptoms: Persistent drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, and constipation are tell-tale signs of misuse.
  • Cognitive and Emotional Changes: Users may exhibit confusion, impaired judgment, mood swings, and depression.

Promethazine Dependency: A Road to Addiction

Sustained and regular use of promethazine, a medication commonly prescribed for allergy symptoms, nausea, and motion sickness, can give rise to both physical and psychological dependence. It’s essential to delve into the nuances of this dependence, as well as the challenges associated with discontinuing its use without proper support.

Physical Dependence: Regular use of promethazine can lead to physical dependence, wherein the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug. This adaptation prompts physiological changes, and the individual may experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to reduce or cease promethazine intake. Physical dependence is a common occurrence with various medications, and promethazine is no exception.

Psychological Dependence: Beyond the physical aspect, promethazine can also lead to psychological dependence. Individuals may develop a reliance on the drug to cope with stress, anxiety, or discomfort. The psychological dependence can manifest as a perceived need for promethazine to manage emotional states, creating a complex relationship between the individual and the medication.

Withdrawal Symptoms: Discontinuing promethazine use, especially after prolonged and regular consumption, can result in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may encompass a range of physical and psychological manifestations, including but not limited to:

  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep may be a prevalent withdrawal symptom, contributing to sleep disturbances and impacting overall well-being.
  • Irritability: Individuals undergoing withdrawal from promethazine may experience heightened irritability, mood swings, and a decreased threshold for frustration.
  • Severe Restlessness: A notable withdrawal symptom can be severe restlessness, where individuals may feel agitated or uneasy, making the process of quitting challenging without proper assistance.

Challenges of Quitting Without Professional Help: Attempting to quit promethazine without professional help can pose significant challenges due to the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and the complexities of dependence. Professional assistance, including medical supervision and psychological support, becomes crucial for a smoother and safer cessation process.

Professional Support: Healthcare professionals can provide tailored strategies to manage withdrawal symptoms, address underlying issues contributing to dependence, and offer guidance on transitioning to a drug-free state. This support is instrumental in ensuring a comprehensive and holistic approach to overcoming dependence on promethazine.

In conclusion, understanding the potential for physical and psychological dependence on promethazine sheds light on the importance of seeking professional help when discontinuing its use.

Seeking Treatment? We Can Help!

Types of Treatment Available (Most Covered by Insurance):

  1. Inpatient Rehabilitation:

    • Inpatient rehabilitation, also known as residential treatment, involves individuals residing within a treatment facility for a specified duration. This structured environment provides intensive care and support.
  2. Outpatient Programs:

    • Outpatient programs offer flexibility, allowing individuals to receive treatment while continuing their daily lives. They attend therapy sessions, counseling, and other interventions on a scheduled basis.
  3. Detoxification (Detox):

    • Detox is the initial phase of treatment, focusing on safely and systematically removing substances from the body. It is often conducted under medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  4. Therapy and Counseling:

    • Various therapeutic modalities, including individual counseling, group therapy, and family therapy, are crucial components of addiction and mental health treatment. These sessions help individuals explore and address underlying issues.
  5. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT):

    • MAT involves the use of medications, in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies, to address substance use disorders. It is particularly effective for opioid and alcohol addictions.
  6. Dual Diagnosis Treatment:

    • Dual Diagnosis Treatment addresses co-occurring mental health disorders alongside substance use disorders. It involves integrated interventions to holistically address both aspects of an individual’s well-being.
  7. Holistic Therapies:

    • Holistic approaches incorporate alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and mindfulness. These practices aim to promote overall well-being and support recovery.
  8. Support Groups:

    • Support groups, like those following the 12-step model (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous), provide a community for individuals to share experiences, seek guidance, and foster mutual support.
  9. Sober Living Homes:

    • Sober living homes offer a transitional and supportive environment for individuals in recovery. They provide a structured living arrangement to reinforce sobriety.
  10. Mental Health Treatment:

    • Mental health treatment specifically addresses psychiatric conditions. It may involve therapy, medication management, and other interventions to enhance emotional well-being.
  11. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

    • CBT is a goal-oriented therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It is effective for both addiction and mental health concerns.
  12. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):

    • DBT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts of acceptance and mindfulness. It is particularly beneficial for individuals with emotional dysregulation.
  13. Motivational Interviewing (MI):

    • MI is a client-centered counseling style aimed at eliciting behavior change by helping individuals explore and resolve ambivalence. It is effective in the early stages of recovery.
  14. Residential Treatment Centers:

    • Residential facilities provide immersive and structured treatment experiences for individuals requiring a more extended and intensive intervention.
  15. Community-Based Programs:

    • Programs within the community offer accessible and community-centered support for individuals with mental health concerns.
  16. Inpatient Mental Health Treatment:

    • Inpatient mental health treatment involves individuals residing within a treatment facility designed to provide a controlled and supportive environment for managing mental health conditions.

Understanding the diverse range of treatment options allows individuals to access the most suitable and effective interventions tailored to their unique needs. Seeking professional guidance is crucial to developing a personalized treatment plan.

Seeking Treatment? We Can Help!

At California Prime Recovery, as an in-network provider we work with most insurance plans, such as:

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse, reach out to California Prime Recovery today. Our team of compassionate professionals is here to support your journey towards lasting well-being. Give us a call at 866-208-2390

Also, check out our blogs posted weekly on Medium.


Yes, with the right treatment and support, recovery from promethazine addiction is entirely possible.

Approach the situation with understanding and encourage them to seek professional help. Being supportive and non-judgmental is key.

Many insurance plans do cover addiction treatment. Contact California Prime Recovery to discuss your specific coverage options.

Therapy helps address the underlying causes of addiction, teaches coping strategies, and aids in emotional regulation.

Absolutely. With dedication and the right treatment plan, individuals can overcome addiction and lead fulfilling lives.

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