Usually served up in a styrofoam cup, the concoction of Sprite, prescription cough medicine, and a grape-flavored hard candy (like a Jolly Rancher) is known by several different names: “Sizzurp”, “Purple Drank”, “Dirty Sprite”, “Purple Lean”. Psychiatrist and blogger, Dr. Melissa Welby, didn’t know it was also called simply “Lean” until she checked her daughter’s texts:
Truth be told, I read my daughters texts. I don’t feel great about it but 7th-graders aren’t “oversharers” (with their parents) and I want to have an idea of what is going on. Her texts were my source of learning about the drug called Lean. It wasn’t at a conference or in one of my 4,000 medical magazines that seem to come daily; it was embedded in a text to a friend about what their respective schools were like. She mentioned there were lots of kids who use Juul and some who use the Lean drug. What? Huh? Am I the last to know this is a thing? What is the drug Lean??!!
Why “Lean”? Apparently, the ingredients’ side effects produce the desired outcome for the imbiber:
Prescription cough syrups contain codeine, an opioid drug. They also can have an antihistamine, promethazine, that causes sedation and can impair motor functioning (hence causing the lean).
Lean isn’t a new mixture featuring a blend of sweet and deadly. Dr. Welby learned that “Purple Drank” first gained popularity in the Houston, Texas area in the 1960s. The 2007 song “Purple Drank” by Mike Jones gives a taste of what the drink’s effect might have. (The parental warning “Explicit Lyrics” is included on the YouTube clip. Like most songs of the genre, I can’t make out many of the words anyway, but you can give it a try here.) But today, glamorizing and promoting it in song would seem to be a bit tone-deaf:
Given the national opiate crises, we all know that taking opiates is dangerous and can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. It’s easy to imagine people who use lean don’t have a great idea of the amount of codeine they are ingesting since they are drinking a medicine that tastes like syrup, mixed with candy and soda. This puts them at higher risk of dangerous consequences.
So kids, lean in and listen: Beware of this nasty “drank.”