Lean is a well-known, home-made beverage containing prescription-strength cough syrup (usually promethazine and codeine). It has flavoring ingredients such as soft drinks (Sprite), and often some type of hard candy (Jolly Ranchers).
- It is called “purple drank” because the dye in codeine cough syrup gives it a purplish hue.
- The term was probably coined due to its powerful, smooth simple list of ingredients.
It is thought to have emerged during the 1960s when blues musicians mixed Robitussin with beer.
Later, the creation of wine coolers quickly replaced beer since they were more flavorful. Purple drank then gained rapid popularity in the 1990s among West and East coast hip-hop artists.
Street names include:
- purple drank
- purple jelly
- dirty sprite
It is generally made up of different combinations of cough syrup, soft drinks and hard candy. It is classically consumed in a styrofoam cup. The main ingredients are;
- Codeine Cough Syrup (in excess of medically recommended dosage)
- Soft Drink (Sprite etc.)
- Hard Candy (Jolly Ranchers etc.)
- Other Options (alcohol, other prescription meds)
Codeine is an opioid with antitussive (cough suppressing) and mildly analgesic properties. When consumed in higher than normal doses, codeine can cause:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Blurry/double vision
- Euphoria/false sense of well-being
- Slurred speech
- Impaired motor coordination
- Breathing difficulties
Promethazine is a first-generation (older) antihistamine commonly prescribed to treat allergies, nausea from motion sickness and insomnia. In higher doses, it is used as a preoperative sedative. It is frequently combined with codeine in prescription cough syrup to strengthen codeine’s cough-suppressing properties.
Decades ago, promethazine was a popular antipsychotic drug administered to people suffering schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic phase).
However, with the development of new antipsychotics targeting dopamine receptors in the brain, promethazine is rarely prescribed to treat severe mental illnesses.
Side effects of promethazine can include:
- Dry mouth
- Inability to concentrate
Because it contains prescription medications for treating allergies and coughs, many users think “purple drank” is safe and non-addicting. However, combining any powerful opioid, like codeine, with an antihistamine that also suppresses nervous system functioning is a dangerous concoction. It has proved to cause serious health problems.
Is Codeine a Narcotic?
Yes, codeine is classified as an opioid, and therefore considered a narcotic. Another name for narcotics are opioid pain relievers, prescribed for severe pain. They are highly addictive. Narcotics work by binding to brain receptors which block feelings of pain. Other narcotics include;
Codeine is a highly addictive opioid targeting the same areas of the brain as heroin, morphine and other opioids.
- When codeine is combined with promethazine, its effects on the brain and body increase significantly.
Users will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they abstain from abusing the beverage for too long. Users may experience the following chronic conditions:
- Teeth and gum disease
- Liver damage (especially if users mix lean ingredients with alcohol)
- Urinary tract infections
Tolerance to codeine builds quickly, leading abusers to increase their consumption of codeine to achieve desired affects.
Incidences of overdosing are high because the combination of codeine and promethazine causes extreme sedation and loss of the correct perception of time. Purple drank overdoses occur primarily for two reasons:
- Users forget how much they have consumed.
- Adding alcohol, stimulants or other opioids to the mixture.
Counteracting an overdose involves doctors applying the same emergency medical techniques used to counteract any other opioid overdose. This would include providing supportive care until the danger of coma and death has passed.
There’s been multiple celebrities who overdosed while taking this beverage. For example, rapper Li’l Wayne began suffering seizures in 2012 after chronic abuse of it. In 2000, musician DJ Screw overdosed on lean drinks containing codeine, promethazine, Valium and alcohol. Also, it has been claimed Mac Miller was addicted to this very dangerous and addictive cocktail back in 2012.
Always call 911 immediately when someone appears to be suffering from any type of overdose symptoms.