Lean, also known as purple drank, sizzurp, or dirty sprite, is a highly dangerous recreational drug beverage made by mixing prescription cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine with soda and hard candy. Originating in Houston, Texas in the 1960s, lean has become increasingly popular in recent decades, glamorized by hip hop music and pop culture. But behind the candy-like flavor and purple hue, this drink poses life-threatening risks.

The hard truth is that lean can be fatal, especially when consumed in large amounts or combined with other substances like alcohol and pills. If you or someone you care about is abusing lean, it’s crucial to seek professional help before it’s too late. At JourneyPure, our expert team of addiction specialists is dedicated to helping individuals hooked on lean and other drugs build a foundation for lasting recovery. Call us at 888-985-2207 to learn about our evidence-based treatment programs in Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida.

What Is Lean?

The primary ingredient in lean is prescription cough syrup containing codeine, a narcotic opioid, and promethazine, an antihistamine with sedating effects. To make lean, this syrup is typically mixed with a soft drink like Sprite or Mountain Dew, along with crushed hard candies like Jolly Ranchers for added color and sweetness. The concoction is then sipped out of a styrofoam cup.

Codeine acts on opioid receptors in the brain to produce relaxation, euphoria and pain relief. Promethazine amplifies these effects by depressing the central nervous system, leading to drowsiness, impaired coordination and slowed heartbeat. Together, these drugs create a powerful sensation of dissociation and intoxication, placing the user in a depressant “lean” state.

The Rise of Lean Abuse

Lean first gained a foothold in the Houston blues scene of the 1960s as an easy, cheap way to get high. Its popularity exploded in the 1990s when hip-hop legends like DJ Screw and Three 6 Mafia began referencing the drink in their music and videos, associating it with hip hop culture. As this glamorized image spread, more and more people, especially youth, started experimenting with the drug.

Today, lean remains widely abused for its euphoric high and feelings of relaxation. Many mistakenly believe lean is less dangerous than illegal street drugs since it contains medicine. Here are just a few of the many risks.

The Dangers of Sippin’ on Syrup

While lean may taste like candy, it is a potent, addictive and potentially lethal drug cocktail. The promethazine-codeine cough syrups used to make lean are in the same opioid drug family as heavy-hitters like Vicodin, OxyContin and heroin. As such, the risks of lean mirror those of other opioids:

  • Slurred speech, blurred vision, impaired memory and coordination
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation, urinary retention
  • Dizziness, headaches, seizures
  • Raspy voice, tooth decay and weight gain from drinking large amounts of sugary soda
  • Slow, shallow breathing, reduced heart rate and blood pressure
  • Addiction, withdrawal symptoms, drug cravings
  • Overdose, respiratory arrest, coma and death

The dangers are compounded when lean is mixed with alcohol, Xanax, Valium or other downers. These combos can multiply the risk of deadly overdose. Like other opioids, codeine is highly addictive when misused. Frequent lean drinkers often develop a tolerance, needing to consume more and more to achieve the desired effects. This dramatically amps up the risk of overdose. Psychological cravings and physical withdrawal symptoms make it extremely difficult to stop without professional help.

How Much Does It Take To Overdose?

There is no clear-cut answer, as a deadly dose of lean depends on many individual factors like opioid tolerance, metabolism, hydration level and overall health. In general, the more lean consumed and the more potent the cough syrup used, the higher the risk. Most lean-related deaths have codeine levels many times above the therapeutic dose range of 50-200 mg. Combining lean with other CNS depressants is especially likely to cause a fatal overdose.

If someone overdoses on lean, it is a medical emergency. Unlike other opioid ODs that are characterized by a rapid loss of consciousness, lean overdoses tend to hit more gradually due to promethazine’s long-acting sedative effects. Signs to watch for include:

  • Bluish lips and fingernails
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Gurgling sounds or snoring (caused by respiratory depression)
  • Unresponsiveness, inability to wake up
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest

Call 911 immediately if you suspect a lean overdose. Quick medical treatment is essential to avoid permanent brain damage or death. Never let someone “sleep off” an OD. They may stop breathing in their sleep and never wake up.

The primary ingredient in lean is prescription cough syrup containing codeine, a narcotic opioid, and promethazine, an antihistamine with sedating effects

The primary ingredient in lean is prescription cough syrup containing codeine, a narcotic opioid, and promethazine, an antihistamine with sedating effects

Get Help for Lean Addiction at JourneyPure

The grip of lean addiction can feel impossible to break, but you don’t have to struggle alone. JourneyPure is here to guide you on the road to recovery with our expert medical care, evidence-based addiction therapies and unconditional support. Our comprehensive treatment programs are tailored to meet your unique needs and address both lean abuse and any underlying emotional pain driving it. We offer:

  • Medically-supervised detox for a safe, complete withdrawal
  • Behavioral therapies to help you understand your addiction, manage triggers and build recovery skills
  • Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health issues like depression, anxiety and PTSD
  • Medication-assisted treatment options to reduce cravings and prevent relapse
  • Family therapy to heal relationships damaged by addiction
  • Holistic wellness services like yoga, art therapy and fitness to nourish your mind, body and spirit
  • Detailed aftercare planning and sober living options to set you up for long-term success

You deserve a life free from the chains of lean addiction. Take the first step today by calling JourneyPure at 888-985-2207 or reaching out to us online. Our caring admissions navigators are available 24/7 to help you explore treatment options, verify insurance coverage and start your recovery journey. A better tomorrow begins the moment you reach out for help.

Staff Spotlight

Will Long

  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • years in the field

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