Purple Drank Abuse Among Teens

Purple Drank, or Lean and Sizzurp, is a drink mixed using prescription-strength cough medicine, soft drinks, and candy. [1] It’s especially hazardous because cough medicine often contains codeine, an opioid drug. This can lead to Teen Purple Drank abuse and other severe consequences because the medication is being misused.

We will explore why teens may be drawn to Purple Drank, the signs and symptoms of abuse, and the impact Purple Drank can have on the body.

What is Purple Drank & Why Is it Appealing to Teens?

Purple Drank contains codeine in the cough medicine used to make it. When codeine is consumed in large doses unprescribed, it can have damaging effects.

Some Purple Drank concoctions also contain promethazine. This is prescribed to treat allergies, motion sickness, and other medical issues. [1] Because of its strong sedative properties, it can also be prescribed during labor and before or after surgery.

When these medicines are combined with the sweet tastes of soda and candy, tracking how much was consumed can become challenging, leading to Purple Drank abuse.

Teens may be attracted to Purple Drank because of its relaxing and euphoric effects. They may want to use it to get relief from stress. Since it acts on the central nervous system, it slows down brain activity and causes sedative effects.

The DEA estimates that one in ten teenagers abuses codeine cough syrup by making drinks like Purple Drank. Each year, approximately three million teens and young adults will use codeine to get high. [2] A 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that approximately 2.4 million people 12 years or older misused nonprescription cough and cold medicines in the last year. [3]

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Media Portrayal of Purple Drank

While Purple Drank is believed to have its roots in the mid-20th century when Robitussin was mixed with beer, it began to evolve in the 1980s when rappers would mix codeine with soda and hard candy. It became increasingly popular when rappers included it in their lyrics. It’s believed that several rappers, including Juice WRLD, Pimp C, DJ Screw, and Big Moe, all died from heart failure due to using Lean.

Many people think the prevalence of Purple Drank in entertainment impacts teens’ Purple Drank use. They believe the influence of social media and pop culture is to blame for more teens wanting to try this dangerous concoction.

Effects of Purple Drank Use

After drinking Purple Drank, the effects can become apparent within 30-45 minutes. Adding more codeine to the mixture can shorten the onset of the impact. The effects peak within one to two hours and last up to six hours per drink.

After taking Purple Drank, teens may experience the following:

  • Euphoric or High Feeling
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed Heart Rate
  • Depressed Breathing
  • Impaired Vision
  • Slurred Speech
  • Loss of Coordination
  • Constipation
  • Weight Loss
  • Depression or anger
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies

Long-Term Consequences of Purple Drank Abuse

Using Purple Drank for long periods may result in other severe consequences. These include:


The opioid-like effect that Purple Drank can have on the heart and lungs can deprive the brain of oxygen, leading to seizures.

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Dental Decay

The sugary mix of soda, hard candy, and cough syrup can lead to dental decay. Also, the use of opioids like codeine can lead to dry mouth. This can increase the number of gum-damaging bacteria.


The potential for hallucinations is also present in people who use Purple Drank. When people are hallucinating, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. This can lead to injury and possibly even death.

How Can I Know if My Child is Drinking Lean?

Considering the short and long-term effects of Purple Drank, it is essential to raise awareness of Purple Drank abuse and to recognize behavioral signs that your child may be drinking Lean. These include:

Missing Medications

If you notice you have cough syrups or antihistamines missing from your medicine cabinet, you’ll want to get to the bottom of it. Also, keep an eye on alcohol in your home. Sometimes, this is used in the concoction as well.

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Use of Drug-Specific Language

If you notice your teen using language that refers to drugs like Lean, you’ll want to pay special attention. This includes terms like:

  • Purple Drank
  • Sizzurp
  • Texas Tea
  • Dirty Sprite
  • Syrup
  • Purple Tonic

Drug References in Texts

A variety of emojis or icons are also used when talking about Lean, such as:

  • Purple hearts 💜
  • Baby Bottles 🍼
  • Grapes 🍇

When you notice one or a combination of these, you’ll want to seek help to get to the bottom of what is going on in your teen’s life.

Treatment for Purple Drank Abuse

If you suspect Purple Drank abuse in your teen, contact Ember Recovery. We have a variety of treatment programs to help your teen, as well as detox referrals. We will find the perfect combination of treatments to help your teen battle their substance abuse disorder. Contact us today to learn more.



[1] https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs43/43924/sw0008p.pdf

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080112181400.htm

[3] https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf