Lean (Purple Drink) Effects, Dangers and Treatment Options

Drug abuse and addiction are significant concerns that can have detrimental effects on individuals and their loved ones and there has been an increase specifically in focusing on the opioid crisis in the United States. As this focus continues, one substance that has gained attention in recent years is “Lean.” Lean is considered to be an opioid-containing concoction according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and not much research has focused on the recreational use of these dangerous substances. 

What Is "Lean"?

Lean, also known as “Purple Drank,” “Sizzurp,” or “Dirty Sprite,” is a recreational drug concoction made by combining prescription-strength cough syrup containing the illicit drug codeine, promethazine, and a carbonated soft drinks such as a lemon-lime soda or fruit-flavored drink. This mixture is typically consumed in large quantities and is known for its sedative and euphoric effects.

According to a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Lean originated from Houston, Texas, in the 1990s as a form of self-medication using readily available ingredients.

Alternative Versions of Lean

When referring to “lean,” it is important to recognize that the specific formulations and ingredients can vary. Here are some notable versions associated with this recreational drug:

  • Promethazine-based Lean: The traditional form of lean involves mixing prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine with a carbonated beverage. This combination often gives the mixture a characteristic purple color, earning it the nickname “Purple Drank.”
  • DXM-based Lean: In addition to the promethazine-based versions, there are also lean drinks that incorporate counter cough syrups containing an ingredient called dextromethorphan (DXM). DXM is found in over-the-counter products like Robitussin Nighttime Cough DM and Delsym DM, as well as certain generic cough syrups. Misusing these DXM products recreationally, also known as “robotripping,” can lead to dangerous effects such as hallucinations, psychosis, and even cardiac issues.
  • Codeine-infused Lean: Another variation of lean involves using prescription cough syrup containing codeine, either instead of or in addition to the over-the-counter promethazine or DXM formulations. It’s important to note that codeine-infused cough syrups are more tightly controlled and require a prescription. While codeine is a lower-potency opioid compared to some other substances, it still carries the risk of physical dependence and misuse.

It’s worth mentioning that the popularity of syrups containing promethazine or DXM has largely overshadowed the use of codeine-infused cough syrups for making lean due to their easier accessibility. However, it is crucial to understand that the misuse of any of these versions of lean can have serious consequences for both physical and mental health.

What Are The Effects of Lean?

Lean produces a range of effects on the central nervous system, providing both sedation and euphoria. In addition to hallucinations, nausea, and dental decay, some common effects include:

  • Euphoria: Users may experience a sense of intense happiness and relaxation.
  • Drowsiness: Lean acts as a depressant, leading to drowsiness and reduced alertness.
  • Impaired motor skills or Loss of Coordination: The sedative properties of Lean can hinder coordination and motor function.
  • Respiratory depression: High doses of codeine in Lean can suppress breathing, posing serious health risks.

Specifically, because of the euphoric effects that “lean” produces, like other opioid drugs, this substance can be highly addictive and can lead lean drinkers to develop a dependence on the substance.

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Dangers of Lean

One of the primary dangers of lean lies in its ingredients. Codeine, a powerful opioid, can lead to addiction, respiratory depression, and even overdose when taken in high doses or combined with other depressants like alcohol. Promethazine, an antihistamine, can cause sedation, drowsiness, and impair coordination and judgment. When consumed in excessive amounts or with other substances, lean can have profound effects on the central nervous system, leading to severe respiratory distress, unconsciousness, and, in some cases, even death.

While Lean may initially provide pleasurable effects, it carries various risks and dangers, including:

  • respiratory depression
  • unconsciousness
  • liver damage
  • impaired vision
  • high blood pressure
  • neurological disorders
  • fatal overdose

A publication for teens by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) calls Lean “quite dangerous” and highlights the fact that while some teens and other Lean users claim it is not dangerous, a number of celebrities have died or experienced serious consequences as a result of drinking “lean“. Teens in particular have been influenced by the so-called “appeal” of lean because of its prevalence in pop culture, specifically the hip-hop music scene according to a publication on the National Library of Medicine (NLM). 

How Does Lean Affect The Body?

When Lean is consumed, its active ingredients, such as codeine, are metabolized by the liver and converted into morphine, a potent opioid. This process results in various physiological and psychological effects, including:

  • Pain relief: Codeine, the primary ingredient in Lean, can provide analgesic properties, suppressing pain signals in the brain.
  • Sedation: The combination of codeine and promethazine in Lean induces drowsiness and relaxation by depressing the central nervous system.
  • Respiratory depression: High doses of codeine in Lean can slow down breathing, leading to decreased oxygen levels and potential health risks.

Treatment Options for Lean Abuse

If you or someone you know is abusing or has substance use disorder (SUD), seeking professional help is crucial. Effective treatment options may include:

  • Inpatient/Residential rehab: Comprehensive residential programs that provide 24/7 support, detoxification, therapy, and counseling to address underlying issues.
  • Outpatient programs: Structured treatment plans with regular therapy sessions, support groups, and access to medical professionals while allowing individuals to live at home.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): A widely used approach that helps individuals identify and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior associated with substance abuse.
  • Support groups and aftercare: Ongoing support and involvement in support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or follow-up care can greatly enhance long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse addiction, Riverside Recovery is here to help. Our dedicated team of professionals provides compassionate care, evidence-based treatments, and a supportive environment to aid your recovery journey. Contact us today to take the first step toward a healthier and brighter future.