Lean (Purple Drank) Guide

It is never too early for a family to intervene in the case of a loved one’s drug addiction. In fact, the sooner that families take action, the better. Consider this: Research highlighted by USA Today suggests that 90 percent of people who have an addiction to something like alcohol or drugs started using those substances prior to age 18. That means people who use early tend to be people who keep on using throughout life, and that ongoing use could have disastrous consequences.

Keeping an eye on emerging drug use often means understanding what new drugs people might be exposed to, both in the real world and online. Most people love to experiment and take risks, and they often take those risks by trying out hip and new drugs. One drug they might try right now is called lean, and it is incredibly dangerous.

What Is Lean?

Lean is a slang term for a recreational drug that originally gained popularity in Houston, Texas. Today, lean is available almost everywhere, and experts say that its popularity continues to grow.

Lean’s appeal lies, in part, to its accessibility. People who want lean do not need to buy it from a dealer—they can simply make it. Its main ingredient is prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine. Next, the cough syrup is generally mixed with other ingredients like lemon-lime soda and pieces of hard candy, like Jolly Ranchers. The purplish hue of the drink comes from dyes in the cough syrup.

It is easy enough to learn how to make lean from one’s peers or to search online for recipes. There are videos available that provide step-by-step instructions for those who want to make their own version of the substance. People also discuss best practices for making it in online forums.

Lean’s Addiction Capability

While you might think it is strange for a person to drink cough syrup—especially when that person might have been resistant to taking the medication when they were younger and sick—those who use lean have a reason they experiment.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), codeine (one component of the cough syrups used) is a narcotic. This medication can help to soothe a cough, but it can also cause a dissociative state in which colors, sounds, and experiences become bended and unusual. A person who uses lean might experience a completely different reality, and that might be quite enticing to someone who wants to experiment with drugs.

And while codeine may have the ability to change the way a person experiences the world, the drug also has a nasty downside. Specifically, this drug has the capability of triggering addictive symptoms in a person who regularly uses it.

Codeine is in a class of medications known as opioids, and according to NIDA, an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States are dealing with addiction issues related to drugs like codeine. These drugs work by changing the brain’s chemical signals involving pleasure and reward. When the drugs are present, the brain pumps out an abnormal amount of pleasure signals, and the portions of the brain that deal with reward light up. In time, those brain cells can become so damaged that they cannot function without the help of codeine. The brain will call out for the drug, even if future hits do harm. That is when an addiction emerges, and it can be tough to stop using without help.

Additional Lean Dangers

When addiction experts discuss lean concerns, they often focus on codeine; however, there is another ingredient that could cause a great deal of danger: promethazine.

Promethazine, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is designed to relieve allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, and itching, which can be triggered by colds or other illnesses in addition to allergic reactions. It is commonly found in the cough syrups people use to mix a batch of lean. This is a medication that can cause a variety of negative side effects, including:

  • Wheezing.
  • Slow breathing.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Confusion.
  • Terror.
  • Seizures.

In other words, the promethazine in lean could lead to death for those who take it. This medication might not be the reason people begin to take the drug, but it could cause serious damage nonetheless.

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Signs of Lean Abuse

For families to effectively intervene with someone who is using lean, they need to know what it looks like and how people who take the drug typically act. Then, when these signs appear, families can take action and ensure that the abuse stops before something catastrophic happens.

A good tipoff is the physical appearance of lean. Usually, it is a purple-colored liquid (due to the colorful dye found in cough syrup), but the overall color can change depending on the flavor of the fruit-flavored hard candy that is also added to the mixture. Brightly colored drinks with a faintly medicinal smell are very likely lean.

The slang used to describe it can also be a good indicator. People who use drugs may talk in a form of code, so that those around them are aware of their drug use. Street names for lean can include:

  • Purple stuff.
  • Sizzurp.
  • Drank.
  • Barre.
  • Purple jelly.
  • Purple drank.
  • Syrup
  • Texas tea

Watching for signs of drug use and abuse is also smart, as people who use lean might not have a chance to see the drugs wear off before they see their families and friends. People who use lean might experience:

  • Faintness
  • Moodiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urination issues
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rash
  • Itchiness
  • Constipation
  • Hives
  • Changes in vision
  • Seizures
  • Confusion

Talking about Lean

As an article in USA Today points out, many people who use lean do so because they think the drug is safe for them to use. Since they can get ingredients for the drug in the pharmacy or grocery store, it just does not seem dangerous to them. There is no drug dealer contact, and there is no crime committed. To some people, the drug seems really benign and a good option to help them get high.

Talking effectively about lean might mean talking about the impact of drugs in a general way, so users can understand the risks of continuing to use and abuse the substance.

Some families start the conversation by discussing the link between drug use and crime. There are plenty of good statistics to cite. For example, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that 80% of people who commit crimes are known to abuse drugs or alcohol. They might be driven to crime due to the high cost of addiction, or their addictions might prompt them to carry or sell illegal drugs. People who use drugs and who want to stay out of jail might be moved to stop when they hear that statistic.

Other families talk about the very real risk of overdose, in relation to lean and other prescription drug concoctions. Again, there are plenty of statistics to cite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 200,000 people have died in the United States due to prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2016. Very few of these people set out to overdose on drugs. They likely wanted to feel a high and needed a large amount of drugs to achieve it. They lost their lives as a result.
Whatever method families use, the important thing is to talk about lean with your loved one who abuses it and ask them to get help. The families who have that conversation might even save a life.