Is Purple Drank Making a Comeback?


Purple drank is a combination of prescription-strength cough syrup, soft drinks and hard candy. The drink became popular in the 1980s when hip hop artists began pouring Robitussin into their alcohol. Though any cough medicine can be used, prescription-strength is preferred (and most dangerous) because it contains the opioid codeine. Other names for purple drank include lean, sizzurp and dirty Sprite.

It’s difficult to track purple drank because the ingredients used are legal. Lean hasn’t fallen off the radar, but it has been a growing concern once again, especially as the drink is glamorized in music and sports. Because it’s easy to make, it’s important to be aware of the effects and implications of purple drank.

Below we cover the dangers of lean and what to look for in someone you care about.

What Makes Lean So Dangerous?

Purple drank may seem like a harmless drug, but it’s far from that. One of the reasons why it’s so dangerous is because it provides a synergistic effect. Prescription-strength cough medicine contains codeine and promethazine. One is an opioid and one is an antihistamine. Together, they can cause symptoms such as dizziness, impaired vision, seizures, confusion and nausea. Codeine is a powerful opioid on its own, so taking too much can lead to suppressed breathing and respiratory distress. Plus, the drug is addictive and can serve as a gateway drug.

What are the Signs to Watch For?

Sizzurp is difficult to track and measure because the ingredients can be bought from the store or prescribed by a doctor. Even if the drink is right in front of your eyes, it’s easy to miss it. Lean looks like passion fruit juice or grape juice. You might not be able to tell by the drink alone, so it’s best to watch for strange behaviors.

Here are some signs that a loved one may be abusing purple drank.

  • Stacked styrofoam cups

  • Raspy voice

  • Slurred speech

  • Constricted pupils

  • Loss of balance and coordination

  • Paleness

  • Constipation

  • Dental problems

When abusing the drink, there is more to worry about than short-term effects. People who drink lean in large doses or for long periods of time run the risk of coma or death. The effects of the drug are exacerbated when combined with other drugs such as alcohol or marijuana. Deaths have been reported from purple drank, including DJ Screw, Pimp C. and Fredo Santana.

Using purple drank to get high can lead to adverse health effects and addiction. It’s nothing to take lightly. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, call The River Source. We have both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that can be of great help for opioid addictions.