Lean (also colloquially known as “purple drank” or “sizzurp”) is a drug cocktail that consists of cough medication (codeine), hard candy, and a soft drink (often Sprite). The psychoactive ingredient in Lean, codeine, is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This designation indicates that while it has some prescription medical use, it also has a high potential for abuse and is, therefore, illegal to use unless prescribed by a doctor.
Codeine is an opiate and alkaloid derived from the poppy plant that produces pain-relieving and sedating effects and serves as a cough suppressant. The antihistamine promethazine is another potential ingredient that can also contribute to heavy sedation and increased motor skill impairment.
When codeine is ingested in excessive amounts, it can lead to harmful effects and may even be life-threatening. Because the drug is usually administered as a consumable liquid, users can rapidly lose track of how much codeine they have ingested. This unintentional occurrence is most often due to the cough syrup’s flavor being masked by candy and soda, and therein lies much of the danger of using lean.
Side effects will gradually worsen as an individual consumes increasing amounts of lean. First-time users may also experience unpleasant side effects, including dizziness, blurry vision, nausea, and memory problems. Repeated, long-term use can also lead to extensive mental and physical health problems.
People who drink lean on a frequent basis report developing tooth decay and other dental issues, as well as constipation, unwanted weight gain, and urinary tract infections. Those who engage in extended lean abuse or use the drug in a sufficiently large amount may also be at risk for life-threatening complications, including overdose. This is more likely to occur when the drug is consumed in combination with other depressants, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Opiates and opioids such as codeine are in a class of drugs associated with a high abuse rate and dependence and addiction potential. The remarkably addictive nature of opiate drugs is due, in part, to the pleasant and rewarding effects that they induce, including euphoria and relief from stress and anxiety.
Because codeine is mild in potency compared to many other opiates and opioids and legal when used as directed by a doctor to manage cough or pain, it’s not exactly easy to accurately track rates of abuse and addiction. However, it is well-established that long-term, excessive abuse of this drug can lead to the development of tolerance and dependence. As tolerance grows, a person will need to use more and more of the drug to experience the sought-after effects.
This increase in drug-using behavior can be a catalyst for the development of chemical dependence. Opioid-dependent persons will then experience highly-uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to discontinue drug use.
In the early stages of withdrawal, an individual may experience the following:
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle aches and pains
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
- Profuse sweating
If a person has used lean for a prolonged period or in very high doses, they may experience more intense withdrawal effects, including nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. To avoid or delay the onset of withdrawal symptoms, individuals dependent upon lean will frequently relapse by resuming the consumption of lean or other opioid drugs. This behavior only serves to perpetuate a seemingly neverending abuse pattern that can ravage one’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
Lean in the Media
Lean use has been promoted as a desirable experience by several high-profile celebrities, most notably artists, such as Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne. Although lean’s widespread media presence may encourage some young people to try it, the reality is, even those who have been attributed to popularizing the cocktail have suffered severe health complications. For example, rapper Lil Wayne began experiencing seizures several years ago after engaging in long-term abuse.
There have also been a few celebrity fatalities associated with lean abuse. In November 2000, DJ Screw, another hip-hop artist who popularized the drink, died of an overdose related to the use of codeine, promethazine, and alcohol.
Treatment for Codeine Addiction
Because withdrawal symptoms that result from codeine addiction can be highly uncomfortable, many patients opt for medical detox before transferring to an intensive rehab program. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer customized programs in partial-hospitalization and residential formats.
Our programs include evidence-based approaches to addiction treatment, such as behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, peer support, aftercare planning, and more. Also, we employ highly-skilled addiction professionals who care for patients and provide them with the resources and support they need to navigate a healthy, sober life following treatment.