Component Analysis of the Illegal Handmade Pills and Capsules for Self-Medicating Substance Dependence in Tehran, Iran

Hamid Reza Khoddami-Vishteh, Hooman Narenjiha, Roya Noori, Azadeh Olyaei, Afsaneh Fard-Sanei, Monir Fekri, Ali Farhoudian


Background: To self-medicate substance dependence, many substance users consume herbal medicines delivered in herbal medicine shops which are prepared through non-standard methods using a variety of different materials. Hence, the present study was carried out aiming to investigate and analyze the content of such herbal medicines.

Methods: Four herbal medicine shops were selected from each of the 22 zones of Tehran City, Iran, and a total of 95 samples were purchased. A package containing 6 types of medication that was advertised by a satellite TV channel, was also purchased. Using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method, the samples were analyzed in the laboratory to detect different types of materials.

Findings: Among the samples, 23 and 72 samples were uncovered compressed pills (Dragon pills) and capsules filled with colored powders (handmade drug-quitting capsules), respectively. The package advertised in the satellite TV was prepared in 6 various forms. The most common substances present in all the samples were as follows: diphenoxylate, tramadol, opioids, acetaminophen, and codeine with values of 90%, 86%, 78%, 69%, and 68%, respectively. On average, 5 of the above mentioned substances were present in each sample; moreover, 63% of the samples contained 5 or more substances. In addition, 42 (41%) of the samples contained all the 5 main substances including opioids, codeine, tramadol, diphenoxylate, and acetaminophen.

Conclusion: The findings of this study showed that handmade capsules and pills used for quitting addiction and also medicines advertised in the satellite TV channels contain different amounts of opioids, amphetamine, benzodiazepines, tramadol, codeine, and other substances that cause problems for substance users who are going to abandon substance abuse.


Substance withdrawal; Herbal medicine; Dragon; Component analysis; High-performance liquid chromatography

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