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Purple Drank | Everything You Need to Know About Lean

You may have heard “purple drank” or “lean” referenced in music, primarily by rappers. These are street names given to the mixture of cough syrup that contains both promethazine and codeine along with a carbonated beverage such as Sprite.

From what I’ve seen, the syrup is always dark purple.

“Candy” seems innocent enough as it’s somewhat humorously referred to in many songs, but it’s a potent concoction that can land people on the rocks.

It’s a Schedule V drug, which means it has an accepted medical use if obtained by a prescription. Being a Schedule V drug, lean may seem like a somewhat harmless narcotic with light effects. 

Well, rappers wouldn’t be singing the praise of their favorite drink if it didn’t get you seriously “lit.”

Lit… is that what the kids are still sayin’?

Anyhow, let’s take a look at what purple drank does and what the experts are saying about it. As usual, I’ll also be throwing in my personal experience with lean.

Why the People Love Purple Drank

Lean / Purple Drank came to prominence in the 1990s and became a popular cocktail to abuse. Also known as “Texas Tea,” it has been particularly popular with the Houston, TX rapper scene. 

Chances are that if you’re reading a blog about drug addiction, you’ve heard of UGK. UGK, featuring Pimp C and Bun B, is hands down the hottest rapper-duo that ever existed in my opinion (I even prefer them over Outkast).

Pimp C loved lean so much that he even recorded an ode to the drug. Unfortunately on December 4th, 2007, Pimp C died from the combination of lean and a medical condition at a hotel in Los Angeles, California.

(Doesn’t seem so harmless, does it?)

So why are so many addicts in love with lean? Well, first of all, it’s a sedative that relaxes your body and slows your breathing down. Second, codeine is an opioid that is in the same class as hydrocodone, meperidine, and even heroin. 

Lean produces a euphoric feeling, much like other drugs in its class. Feelings such as anxiety, guilt, remorse, and hopelessness are not fun for anyone. Purple drank takes away these uncomfortable emotions. 

A verse by one of my favorite rappers indicated that he needed a little “purp” in his system just to get himself up to go sell crack on the “block.”

Lean can help addicts “do what they gotta do” to support their lifestyle without any feelings of shame. It personally helped me just get through the day

Lean can make the most mundane tasks enjoyable because of its effects. No wonder it’s a popular drug to abuse. 

There’s also another popular way to use the syrup by itself. Dipping blunt or joints of marijuana in the syrup also produces euphoria.

What Are the Experts Saying?

This powerful cough syrup can be easier to obtain than other narcotics that are similar. It’s also relatively cheap, which also makes it popular among the youngsters.

It’s no secret that lean is glamorized by celebrities. This makes it even more appealing to the younger crowd. The experts are saying that (according to a report in  2018) the number of kids who have tried the drug are as follows:

  • 8th graders – 2.8%
  • 10th graders – 3.3%
  • 12th graders – 3.4%

Another big concern is that users (even young ones) drink lean while they are using other drugs recreationally. Tricyclic antidepressants, other opioids, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines are among drugs that are commonly used in tandem with purple drank.

These combinations of drugs are extremely dangerous. This is mainly because they slow down the central nervous system to a point where a person can stop breathing. 

It’s not known exactly how much lean it takes to kill a person by overdose, but it’s safe to say that users are not necessarily experts at mixing a non-lethal combination of cough syrup and drinks such as Sprite.

Users also use stimulants such as cocaine and crystal meth while sippin on purple drank. This is sometimes referred to as going “sideways.” This can be particularly hard on a person’s heart and lead to sudden death.

The company Actavis stopped producing its cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine in 2014. This however has not stopped the abuse of the drug since it’s been reported that people have stockpiled the prescription-only syrup.

Lean Addiction

For sure, lean is addictive. Like other opioids, it’s easy to quickly build a tolerance to the drug. This is especially easy if the syrup is used in higher doses than prescribed. This also makes it easy to overdose on the lethal cough syrup.

Lean addiction is real, and the withdrawal symptoms from purple drank are not fun at all. The symptoms in and of themselves will not kill a person, but they can lead to conditions that are deadly, such as extreme dehydration and mineral disturbances in the body.

Lean withdrawal symptoms can include the following:

  • diarrhea
  • anxiety
  • fast heartbeat
  • chills
  • loss of appetite
  • irritability
  • teary eyes
  • runny nose
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Addicts who get clean and then relapse on the drug are at a high risk for overdose because it’s unlikely they will be able to tolerate the same amount that they were once using.

Although the drug lean seems harmless, it can lead to big problems.

My Personal Experience with Purple Drank

The early 2000s were a different time. It was easier to get prescription narcotics than it is nowadays.

By the time I was 17 or 18 (around 2003), I had a serious drug habit. Every day looked like this: 2 hydrocodone in the morning, smoking weed all day, drinking alcohol at night coupled with cocaine, and sometimes benzos to bring me back down.

During this time, I made good friends with a drug dealer. This guy was getting 1000 hydrocodones, 1000 valiums, and 2 unopened bottles of the purple cough syrup used to make lean.

I was already pretty addicted to opiates when I started mixing the syrup with Sprite. It was easy enough to hide (not that any of the people I was going to parties with would have minded).

I noticed that I would quickly have to use more and more to get the desired effect. I much preferred hydrocodone over this. I sometimes would dip a joint or cigarette in the syrup which many people said they enjoyed.

I, however, did not enjoy smoking it as it gave me severe headaches. 

So, I would advise against using this drug recreationally. Not that I’m encouraging anybody to abuse opioids, but this is low on the totem pole in my opinion.

Getting Help for Lean Addiction

Lean addiction is no laughing matter, and depending on how a person is using, that should determine what course to take. If not severely addicted, it may be best to reach out to a primary care physician to get an opinion on whether to go to treatment.

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What is your experience with purple drank? Have you used it and have it lead to a serious problem? We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a comment below.

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Michael Palma

Michael Palma is a drug addict in recovery who is passionate about recovery and recently has taken to writing about his own experience, strength, and hope and hopes to share this with as many people in recovery as he can. He has been a professional jazz pianist for over 20 years. He has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Cobb (drummer for Miles Davis), Daniel Platzman (drummer for Imagine Dragons), Robert “Sput” Seawright (drummer for Snoop Dogg and Snarky Puppy), Greg Osby, and Terri Lynn Carrington to name a few.

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