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What is Purple Drank?

Illicit substances often find their way into pop culture, becoming associated with certain styles of music and certain activities. Purple drank is one of those drugs, gaining visibility through hip-hop and more recently the electronic dance music scene. Although some users treat this substance as a way to relax and have a good time, purple drank can have serious health consequences.

What Is in Purple Drank?

For those unfamiliar with purple drank, the name may make it sound harmless. In reality, this substance is a potent hit of opioids that can be dangerous for users. Also known as “lean” because it leaves users off-balance when they take it, purple drank has a few key ingredients.

Purple drank consists of a mixture of prescription-strength cough syrup and a soft drink or candy. The cough syrup contains a high dose of codeine, a powerful opioid pain medication.


Codeine is a medication that is used to treat pain and cough. It is an opioid, which means it works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and reducing the perception of pain. Codeine is available in a variety of forms, including tablets, syrups, and solutions, and it is often used in combination with other medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

This medicine is typically well-tolerated, but it can cause side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea. In some cases, codeine can also cause constipation, dry mouth, and difficulty urinating. It is important to only use codeine as directed by a healthcare provider and to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while taking the medication.

Codeine is a powerful medication that can be habit-forming when misused. This is why it is critical to use it only as prescribed. The use of codeine for non-medical purposes can be dangerous, leading to dependence, addiction, and serious health problems. It is also important to be aware that combining codeine with certain drugs, such as alcohol or sedatives can cause dangerous reactions.

The sale and use of this medicine is usually restricted to adults over the age of 18. In fact, the FDA recently changed labeling requirements for codeine cough syrups, indicating that they are meant for adults and that risks for children are too great.


Promethazine is a medication that is used to treat a variety of conditions, including allergies, nausea, and vomiting. It is an antihistamine, which means it works by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical that is produced by the body during an allergic reaction. In addition to its antihistamine effects, promethazine also has sedative properties, which can help to induce sleep and relieve anxiety.

Promethazine is available in a variety of forms, including tablets and syrups. It is often prescribed in combination with other medications, such as pain relievers or decongestants, to treat a wide range of conditions. Promethazine can cause side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth.

This drug is commonly paired with codeine because of its ability to reduce nausea that is caused by the strong pain reliever. While the combination is good for a person who is sick and dealing with pain, it can lead to a relaxed high feeling for people taking the medications when they don’t need them.

Illicit Sources for Ingredients

Since the medicines at the center of the mixture are powerful prescriptions, they are tightly controlled. That makes it harder to get syrup and many drug dealers and users turn to illegal methods to get it. Prescription fraud and theft are not uncommon ways for people to obtain large amounts of syrup, creating new legal problems for users who may already face health problems from taking purple drank.

Some mixtures may also contain over-the-counter cough medicines that are not as potent. While they may not contain codeine, misusing these more common drugs can still cause serious health problems.

How Is Purple Drank Taken?

One of the reasons purple drank has been able to spread around the nation and gain popularity is because of how it is consumed. It’s a beverage that can be hidden in plain sight in cups and mugs. There are no special tools needed and there is no obvious sign of the drug such as smoke or other drug paraphernalia.

Common Methods

The consumption of purple drank can take various forms. Some individuals may mix the cough syrup and soft drink together in a single glass, stirring the mixture until the ingredients are fully combined. Others may pour the cough syrup over ice in a glass and then add the soft drink on top, creating a layered effect. Some individuals may also add other ingredients to the purple drank, such as hard candy or fruit juice, to enhance the flavor or create a more potent effect.

The most common method of consuming purple drank is to drink it directly from a glass or cup. Some individuals may also use a straw to sip the mixture or may chug the purple drank quickly to get the effects of the codeine more rapidly. In some cases, individuals may also pour the substance into a water bottle or other portable container, allowing them to consume it on the go.

Drug Combinations

In many situations, this drug isn’t used by itself. People who consume purple drank are often also using other drugs at the same time. Common substances include alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. This increases the danger involved because all of these drugs will have strong effects on the body at the same time, causing big problems for the heart, lungs and brain.

What Effects Does Purple Drank Have?

The sedative effects of purple drank are what lead users to try and abuse the drug. People will temporarily feel relaxed and happy after use. The impact can vary depending on the amount of codeine consumed and the individual’s tolerance to the drug.

At low doses, purple drank can produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria, as well as a sense of calm and detachment from one’s surroundings. As the dose increases, the effects of the codeine can become more intense, leading to impaired judgment, slowed breathing, and a decreased heart rate.

Because lean and purple drank are mixed by individuals, very few batches are the same. A user has no way to tell how much codeine and promethazine a single dose will have. The body may tolerate one dose but have a very bad reaction to the next. When you also consider that there is no way to guarantee what kind of cough medicine has been mixed into a batch of purple drank, it becomes clear that there is no way to know the exact effects a person will see when they take the drug.

Why Is Purple Drank Dangerous?

Despite its proliferation and growing use, purple drank can be very dangerous and brings the risk of serious harm to anyone who abuses it. There are physical and safety concerns that must be considered.

Health Problems

High on the list of worries with this drug are the physical health problems that can happen. The opioid and sedative in the mixture can take a toll on the body, with each of the main ingredients causing a host of issues when abused. Here are some of the negative effects of codeine:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and trouble breathing
  • The stopping of the heart
  • Brain damage

An overdose of codeine is similar to any other opioid overdose and can lead to hospitalization or even death. In addition, the combination of codeine and a soft drink can cause gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

The promethazine in the mixture also causes very dangerous reactions when misused, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Dangerous changes in blood pressure
  • Severe breathing issues.

These side effects are most common when a person consumes large amounts of promethazine. However, since a purple drank user may not know how much promethazine is in each drink and may drink several doses over the course of a few hours, it is very possible to hit dangerous levels of consumption.


The codeine in purple drank is highly addictive, and individuals who use the drug regularly may develop a tolerance to its effects, requiring higher and higher doses to achieve the same level of euphoria. This is a common effect of many forms of opioid abuse. It can take a lot of time and dedicated work to help a person break their dependency on codeine.

In addition, individuals who become dependent on purple drank may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug, including anxiety, agitation, and flu-like symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are often painful and uncomfortable and can derail a person who is trying to get help for their addiction.

Behavioral Issues

The behaviors that are associated with purple drank also need to be addressed. Both users and dealers are engaging in illegal activity to buy, sell and use this controlled substance. Anyone involved increases their chance of long-term legal problems that can impact their ability to lead a productive life later on.

It is also hard to maintain a normal life while abusing purple drank. The sought-after sedative effect leaves people unable to be productive in their work and personal lives, putting jobs and relationships in jeopardy.

While using the drug, a user may also put themselves in situational danger. Purple drank is sometimes used in party atmospheres with lots of people. Thanks to the sedation from the drugs, it can be hard to be aware of what is happening around you and if there is a threat emerging. Even if a person is aware, they may struggle to react appropriately because of the inebriation from the drug.

Recognizing Purple Drank Abuse

Purple drank use is sometimes harder to spot than other drug abuse, but there are still signs. Learning to watch for indicators can help spark the push for treatment.

Behavioral Changes

In any case of suspected drug use, it’s important to watch for unusual changes in behavior. New friends or associates who are known to use drugs, changes in schedule, secrecy and new financial changes are all signs that a person may be engaged in drug use. If a person is suddenly sneaking around or unable to explain how they are spending their money or time, more investigation is needed.

Moods may also change when a person starts to abuse opioids. Watch for unexpected irritability, changes in sleep patterns, fatigue and a loss of interest in normal activities and friends. The user may also start to have physical symptoms of abuse, including stomach problems, chronic breathing trouble and delayed reactions and reflexes.

Physical Paraphernalia

Purple drank use can also produce physical evidence of abuse. The appearance of cough syrup bottles among a person’s belongings is a tell-tale sign. Even if the syrup isn’t prescription strength, the presence of an abundance of over-the-counter medicine can indicate that a person is trying to recreate the high from purple drank.

A user may also start keeping sodas and cups in places that aren’t typical, such as a bedroom or a car. This allows them to mix the beverage in private and hide their habit. It should also be noted if a person seems to always keep a cup or water bottle with them when that was not a part of their normal behavioral pattern in the past.

Getting Help With Purple Drank Addiction

Regardless of its reputation as a party drug or a cultural staple in some parts of the country, purple drank represents a very real threat to a person’s health and safety. Whether it’s called lean, sizzurp or some other nickname, the mixture of prescription cough syrup and soda has the potential to send a person to the hospital, or even kill them.

Anyone who is dealing with a dependency on purple drank or any other opioid needs help to end the addiction. There is no time to wait since each dose of an opioid could be the one that leads to a fatal overdose. To start exploring treatments that can help a user get back on the right path, reach out to Clean Recovery Centers and start looking at the options.



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