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What Are the Side Effects of Lean?

by Will Long

August 15, 2023
hard candy over a picture of lean aka dirty sprite

Lean, also known as “purple drank” or “sizzurp,” is a recreational drug that combines:

  • Prescription-strength cough syrup
  • Soft drinks (soda)
  • Hard candy (e.g., jolly ranchers)

This combination might seem harmless at first glance, but the truth is that lean can cause severe and potentially deadly side effects.

What Is Lean?

Lean gets its name from the drowsy, relaxed effect it produces in those who consume it. The key ingredient, codeine, is an opioid found in some prescription cough syrups. When combined with the antihistamine promethazine, these substances create a euphoric high. However, the risks that accompany its consumption are far from recreational.

The Side Effects of Lean

  1. Respiratory Issues: Codeine slows down the activity of the central nervous system, which can depress breathing. This can cause shortness of breath or even respiratory failure in severe cases.
  2. Gastrointestinal Problems: Lean can cause constipation and other digestive issues, creating long-term discomfort.
  3. Addiction and Dependence: With codeine being an opioid, it can create a physical and psychological dependence, leading to addiction. This dependence makes quitting incredibly difficult without professional help.
  4. Mental Health Effects: Long-term use can affect mental health, causing anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.
  5. Physical Health Risks: The high sugar content from soda and candy can cause obesity and dental problems, while the long-term use of codeine can damage vital organs, including the liver and kidneys.
  6. Risk of Overdose: A codeine overdose can be fatal, leading to respiratory failure and death.

The History of Lean

Lean, also known as “purple drank,” has its roots in the southern United States, particularly in Houston, Texas. The mixture became popular during the 1960s among blues musicians, who used it to enhance their music experience. Blues musicians made it from prescription cough syrups containing codeine and promethazine mixed with soda or alcohol.

Learn more about the history of lean as a recreational drug in Houston, Texas, via the Houston Press.

Legal Status

In many jurisdictions, codeine is a controlled substance, and obtaining it without a prescription is illegal. In the U.S., it’s classified as a Schedule II or III controlled substance, depending on the formulation. Other countries enforce similar restrictions. While the soda and candy used in lean are legal, misusing prescription cough syrup is against the law.

You may face significant legal consequences if you produce, distribute, or use lean without a proper prescription. These might include fines, imprisonment, and other criminal penalties. In addition to legal repercussions, lean misuse can damage reputation and relationships, causing personal, professional, and social consequences.

Social and Cultural Impact

Lean has become a symbol in some hip-hop and youth cultures, particularly in the southern U.S. Lean references appear in lyrics, music videos, and visual art. It’s often depicted as a status symbol or a means of relaxation and creativity. However, this portrayal can sometimes glamorize a dangerous substance.

Media Coverage

Media portrayal of lean has acted as a double-edged sword. While some musicians and artists have glorified its use, journalists and public health advocates have increased awareness about the risks and consequences. The widespread media coverage of celebrities suffering from lean-related issues has also highlighted the dangers of this substance.

Education campaigns and documentaries have further increased the public’s understanding of the risks associated with lean consumption.

Celebrity Use

Several prominent musicians and celebrities, including Lil Wayne and DJ Screw, have been associated with lean. DJ Screw, a prominent and legendary figure in Houston’s hip-hop scene, died in 2000, with lean listed as a contributing factor. The deaths and hospitalizations of other famous individuals have drawn significant media attention to lean and its dangers.

The Path to Recovery

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to lean or other substances, seek professional help. The first step toward a healthier life is recognizing the risks and understanding the path to recovery. Landmark Recovery offers comprehensive addiction treatment programs tailored to each client’s individual needs.

We understand the unique challenges of addiction and will provide the care and support necessary to guide you through your journey to recovery.

Call Landmark Recovery at 888-448-0302 today to speak with a knowledgeable representative and learn how our treatment programs can help you reclaim your life. The path to recovery is within reach, and Landmark Recovery will support you every step of the way.

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About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.