What is Lean Cough Syrup?

One of the ways the United States government seeks to reduce drug abuse and addiction is via our legal system. As fast as they outlaw one drug, new ones keep popping up. Thus it is important to monitor emerging drug trends in order to understand what drugs your family may be exposed to. A few years ago, a new substance gained popularity known as “Lean”. The substance known as Lean cough syrup originated in Houston, Texas. Read on to learn more about Lean and its effects.

Lean: what is it, and why is it so popular?

The primary ingredient is prescription cough medicine with codeine and promethazine, mixed with the hard candy, and Sprite or other lemon-lime soda. The fruit flavored drink’s purplish color comes from dyes contained in the cough suppressant and candy. The appeal of Lean lies mainly in its availability; it can easily be made. It’s also popular because it’s used (and rapped about) by hip-hop artists such as Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and Big Moe.

The potential for addiction

While it may seem odd for someone to voluntarily drink cough syrup, those using Lean for recreational purposes have a reason for experimentation. According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), codeine is a powerful narcotic. It works to soothe troublesome coughs, but it also leads to a dissociative state, or high, where user experiences, colors, and sounds become distorted.

Lean users may experience altered reality, which is a big reason why many experiment with drugs in the beginning. While lean may change the way you see the world, it also has the potential to trigger an addiction with regular use.

Codeine is in the opioid class, and according to the NIDA, approximately 115 people suffer fatal overdoses each day. Opiates work in the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. When the drug is present, the brain sends out a higher number of pleasure signals, which activate the reward centers.

With time, brain cells become so severely damaged that they can’t function without the drug. When the user tries to stop they experience serious withdrawal symptoms. At this point, the person is addicted, and for many, it’s almost impossible to stop using lean without help.

Additional dangers of Lean

When the addiction experts discuss their concerns about lean, they typically concentrate on codeine. However, the other main ingredient, promethazine, is also extremely dangerous. According to the National Library of Medicine, promethazine is made to relieve watery eyes, itching, runny nose, and other allergy symptoms. It is a common ingredient in the prescription cough syrup used to make lean.

Promethazine causes a range of side effects, including:

  • Wheezing
  • Slower breathing
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Terror

In some cases, the promethazine found in lean may lead to death. While most people don’t take lean for the promethazine, it nonetheless causes serious damage.

Signs of Lean use

For a family to intervene with a Lean user, they must know what it looks like and how users typically act. Then, when such signs appear, they can take action to stop the abuse before a disaster strikes. A reliable indicator is the drink’s physical appearance. Usually, it has a purple color because of the cough syrup base, but the shade might change depending on the addition of hard candy like Jolly Ranchers. If there’s a brightly-colored drink with a medicinal smell, it’s probably lean.

The terms used to describe the drug are another indicator. Users often talk in code so they can hide their drug use from others, and slang names for Lean include:

  • Sizzurp
  • Purple stuff
  • Dirty Sprite
  • Barre
  • Drank
  • Purple jelly
  • Syrup
  • Purple drank
  • Texas tea

Physical symptoms

It is a good idea to watch for the signs of use, as those who consume Lean may not have the chance to let the drug wear off before interacting with friends and family.

A person using Lean may experience lightheadedness, faintness, moodiness, or lethargy. Other symptoms of use include a headache, drowsiness, sweating, nausea and vomiting, trouble swallowing, breathing difficulties, or an irregular heartbeat.

Drinking Lean for longer periods of time can damage the body in many ways including tooth decay, weight gain, constipation , nd frequent urinary tract infections. Cases of coma and death have been reported. Lean combined with other sedatives, including alcohol, increase the risk of death.

If a loved one is exhibiting these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

Discussing Lean cough syrup with a user

Many Lean users believe the drug is safe because the ingredients are available at every grocery store and pharmacy. Lean can be made at home so it doesn’t seem as dangerous as some other drugs. There’s no back-alley dealer which makes the drug seem like a benign way to get high. An effective conversation about Lean may involve talking about the general effects of drugs, so the user can understand how risky it is to continue abusing the substance.

Some families jump-start the discussion by talking about the links between crime and drug use. Statistics back it up; for instance, the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) estimates that almost 80% of those who commit criminal offenses are known alcohol or drug abusers. Some are driven to a life of crime because of the addiction’s cost, or the addiction may encourage them to sell or carry drugs. The ability to stay out of legal trouble may be all the motivation a Lean user needs to stop the abuse.

Risk of overdose

Both of the active ingredients in Lean carry a risk of overdose. People can, and do, die from a Lean overdose. Statistics specific to Lean are hard to come by as it is relatively new to substance abuse. DJ Screw died from a Lean overdose in 2000. Lil Wayne was hospitalized after experiencing seizures.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that 70,237 people died of drug overdoses in 2017. Few of these people intended to overdose; they just wanted to get high, and needed an ever-larger quantity of the drug to do it. No matter which method your family uses, the most important step is to talk about the dangers of Lean with the user and ask them to seek help. By having this difficult conversation, it’s possible to save someone’s life or get them on the road to better health.

In Closing

While Lean may seem like a relatively harmless way to get high, its effects can be severe and long-lasting. No matter what it’s called—purple drank, sizzurp, or any other name—it can be lethal in high doses, and may cause serious health problems. From the potential for a fatal overdose to the risk of a long-term addiction, there are many reasons not to use lean.

If you or someone you know has been abusing Lean, they will need professional help to recovery. Most addiction treatment centers are equipped to guide recovery for those wishing to end their use.