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What Is Lean (Purple Drank) and How Is It Made?

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Lean or Purple Drank is a popular opioid drink mixture. It was introduced through rap and hip lyrics in the early 90’s throughout the southeast United States. Since its introduction, Lean has maintained its popularity among rap and hip-hop cultures. A recent study (1) reports 15.5% of concert attendees have used Lean in their lifetime, and 14% of concert attendees said they would be open to using Lean in the future. Lean, for many, starts out as a party drug but quickly develops into an addiction.

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Common Nicknames & Slang for the Drug “Lean”

Similar to many other illicit substances, Lean is known by a host of street names (2). It is often referred to as sizzurp, syrup, or Texas tea, and less commonly as purple jelly, purple stuff, purple tonic, sip-sip, oil, player potion, purp, and barre. Each of these names may be determined by some of the alternative ingredients as well as the region of the country. Each variation of the drug, however, has a purple color and is made by combining promethazine and codeine cough syrup.

How Is Lean Produced & What Are the Ingredients?

Producing Lean requires no special skills or tools like other illicit drugs (methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) It is normally a variation of a few key ingredients along with a multitude of additives that users interchange frequently. To produce Purple Drank, cough syrup that contains promethazine and codeine is mixed with carbonated lemon-lime soda and pieces of hard candy. In some cases, sports drinks or alcohol are substituted to produce various flavors and effects. Commonly, these elements are grape flavored giving Lean its signature purple color.

Is Lean Considered a Drug & Is It Legal?

Though the possession of Lean is not considered a crime, it often requires criminal activity to manufacture. A key ingredient in this purple concoction is cough syrup containing codeine. Codeine is a powerful opioid that causes sedation and drowsiness. This cough syrup is only available through prescription means and is considered a Schedule II narcotic (3) by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Obtaining a prescription opioid that was not prescribed to you by a licensed medical professional is illegal.

Why Would Someone Seek to Use Lean?

People turn to substance use for a variety of reasons. Some turn to drugs as a means of self-medication, others are genetically predisposed to addiction. A few key factors that influence the use of Lean include:

  • Party or concert attendance.
  • Emulating famous musicians.
  • Enjoying the effects produced by the drug.
  • Peer pressure/desire to fit in.

It is difficult to determine a single cause of use. More often than not, there are a multitude of factors influencing the decision to use Lean.

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The Symptoms & Side Effects of Using Lean

Common symptoms (4) of regular Lean use include:

  • Altered states of consciousness.
  • Fatigue, depression, and cloudy thoughts.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Less coughing, as codeine is a cough medication.
  • A decrease in congestion because of the antihistamine effects of promethazine.

Side effects of using lean are similar to other opioids. Mild symptoms include constipation, drowsiness, and confusion. More severe symptoms include low heart rate, suppressed breathing, and loss of consciousness.

Long-Term Effects of Lean Abuse

Physical dependence develops over extended periods of regular use. Similar to other opioids, the body develops a tolerance eventually leading to full dependence. After becoming dependent, users will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms if the substance is not present. These symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Restless legs
  • Mood swings

How Does Lean Affect the Body?

Due to the presence of opioids, Lean produces a calming and often euphoric effect on the body. Categorized as a depressant, opioids bind with the opioid receptors in the brain causing the release of various chemicals of the brain responsible for the body’s reward system. This system produces highly pleasurable sensations especially when manipulated by foreign substances.

What Does Lean Taste Like?

Depending upon the various ingredients that it can have, Lean is commonly known by its fruity grape taste. This is due largely to the presence of grape flavored candies, drinks, and alcohol. Lean will also regularly include lemon-lime sodas adding carbonation and another element of flavor. Many times, these additives are meant to mask the flavor of the codeine cough syrup.

What Are the Risks & Dangers of Using Lean & Other Mixed Drugs

Mixing substances like Lean with other drugs can have potentially fatal side effects. A common mixture is lean with alcohol. Both of these substances are responsible for slowing down heart rate and breathing. When mixed together they have a compounding effect. This often leaves the user experiencing a dramatically increased effect along with increased side effects.

The Addiction & Overdose Potential of Lean

A key ingredient in Lean is cough syrup containing codeine (5). Codeine is a powerful opioid that is considered highly addictive. Those who use codeine regularly often report a physical dependence after a short time of consistent use. As use becomes more frequent, many users will require more of the substance to get the desired effect. As the amount ingested increases, so does the potential for overdose.

How the Consumption of Lean Can Create Addiction

The human body is highly adaptive. Once a substance is regularly present, bodily systems begin to adapt to their presence. This is the basis for physical dependence. Along with this reality, substances like codeine affect the body’s reward system. This produces an urge to continue this drug using behavior. These factors can play a significant role in the development of addiction.

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If you or someone you love has begun to develop some of these patterns of addiction, there is hope. Guardian Recovery is here to help. Our team of highly trained addiction professionals are committed to providing you with the highest quality of substance use treatment. Your journey to a lifestyle of recovery can begin today with one simple phone call. Our treatment advisors are available day or night to answer questions and help guide you toward your best treatment options. Contact Guardian Recovery today.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31041819/
  2. https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs43/43924/sw0008p.pdf
  3. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-is-lean#effects
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682065.html

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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