While teenagers may frequently use substances such as marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, there are other substances parents need to be aware of that are available to their children, and one of them is Lean.  This drug, in particular, has become attractive to teenagers because many famous artists promote lean in their songs and music videos, which lead teenagers to think the drug is not harmful.  Among teenagers, Lean is often referred to as “purple drank” or “sizzurp” and is usually made through a combination of codeine (cough syrup), soda, and jolly ranchers because they add sweetness for taste.

  • Lean is an Opioid; it essential for parents to understand is that Lean has codeine, which is an opioid. When used as medically prescribed and appropriately, there are no side effects of codeine.  However, in Lean, it is estimated that the amount of codeine that is up to 25 times more than in typical prescriptions.  This can lead to severe medical consequences, such as decreased lung function and breathing.
  • Lean has Promethazine, which is a sedative when combined with codeine, it can potentially result in cardiac arrest. Lean acts on your central nervous system (CNS) and slows your brain activity for a sedating effect.
  • Lean can also contain alcohol , which enhances the effects of the codeine or DXM. Adding alcohol increases the likelihood of overdose.
  • Opioid tolerance occurs with Lean, which makes it highly addictive. Withdrawal is harsh and painful for those who experience it.  Lean can create a dangerous cycle because it is a short-acting opioid, meaning withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 12 hours after last using, which increases the urge to use Lean again.
  • Lean is Easy to Make. Lean can also be made using over the counter cough medicine, making it even more accessible. Some make Lean with over-the-counter products that contain the cough medicine Dextromethorphan (DXM), found in NyQuil, Robitussin, and Theraflu. Teens refer to this as “Robbotripping.” DXM is dangerous because it is a hallucinogen and releases dopamine in the brain, which makes the person using feel happy and excited. Possibly leading to addiction — many people high on dextromethorphan experience mild euphoria. But taking large amounts of the cough suppressant can lead to intense hallucinations and paranoia. These effects can cause violent behaviors that may result in assault or suicide.
  • Lean can cause anxiety, muscle soreness, sweating, fatigue, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, dilated pupils. Dehydration is also possible due to diarrhea and vomiting; this can lead to seizures. Lean made with DXM can cause decreased coordination, increased heart rate, and blood pressure and potential brain damage from a lack of oxygen getting to the brain.


How did Lean become so popular?

Lean’s prominence in pop culture has made it more popular than ever. Rappers (and Justin Bieber) have been singing its praises in songs — and dying or having seizures from Lean.

  • Reports suggest it’s a significant factor in Lil Wayne’s ongoing hospitalizations for seizures.
  • Some high-profile cases of this include the deaths of rappers DJ ScrewPimp C, and Fredo Santana. 
  • Bow Wow recently opened up about almost dying as a result of his addiction to Lean.
  • The late Mac Miller also described dealing with an addiction to lean in 2013.
  • Then there are the high-profile athletes whose lean-related suspensions and hospitalizations continue to make the headlines.

What Parents Can Do

  • Talk to children about Lean. Lean may be less common than other drugs, so there may be less awareness about it. But that doesn’t mean it is not dangerous.  Make sure your children understand the dangers of doing Lean, that you do not approve of Lean, and what the consequences will be if they use it.
  • Monitor what your child purchases. Be mindful of empty bottles of cough syrup, styrofoam cups, soda, and hard fruit candy. It is essential to watch out for any changes in personality and behavior; changes might include being irritable, changes in sleep patterns, a loss of interest in school or social activities, or a sudden change in friends.
  • Protect prescriptions in your home: Monitor any medicines inside of your household and be sure the only person using a prescription is the individual it was written for and use the correct dosage.  Lock away any prescription that is not used, and if any expired medicines are laying around your household correctly, get rid of them.
  • Learn more. Some great resources include:
    – The Addiction Center: Lean (Purple Drank) Addiction and Abuse
    – National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens: Cough and Cold Medicine