Often confused with over-the-counter cough syrups, the contents of a cup of lean are often misunderstood especially among teenagers and young adults.

To make matters worse, lean is incredibly popular. Lyrics about the purple drink has become ubiquitous in rap music. Now with celebrity endorsement, lean use has become trendy.

So why is lean so dangerous? Let’s talk about what is really inside that Styrofoam cup.

What is Lean?

Lean, also called sizzurp, Texas tea, or purple drank, is a purple-colored beverage made by combining soda (Sprite or Mountain Dew) and promethazine cough syrup–a powerful prescription medicine.

Lean can also contain candy, like Jolly Ranchers, or gummy worms and in some cases, alcohol is thrown into the mix. Lean typically comes served in a white Styrofoam cup and gets its name due to how its sedating qualities affect posture.

Lean has its origins in the south, Houston, Texas to be exact and was popularized by artists like Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, and Souja Boy. With the opioid epidemic already in full swing, lean is another dangerous opioid contributing to addiction and overdose rates.

Also Read: How to deal with depression and anxiety

1. Lean Contains Codeine

Lean is made using a prescription cough syrup that contains codeine. Codeine is a weaker opioid compared to morphine, but when taken in larger amounts, its effects on the body are no different.

Those that abuse codeine experience a sense of calmness, euphoria and numbness throughout the body, but they can also experience problematic symptoms like respiratory depression, fainting and seizures.

2. It’s Easy to Drink Too Much

Mixed with Sprite and Mountain Dew, hard candy and gummy worms, lean’s sweet flavor encourages drinkers to come back for several cups. This can lead to dangerous or even fatal doses in no time.

For example, a large mixture of lean made with Promethazine cough syrup can exceed almost twice the maximum recommended daily dose of codeine and 3/4 the maximum daily dose of promethazine.1

3. Codeine Can Damage the Body and Brain

Taking large amounts of codeine can result in breathing difficulties, also called respiratory depression. When severe enough, it can lead to hypoxia: a condition where vital organs lose access to the oxygen they need to function properly.

This can have a profound effect on the brain causing permanent damage or even death.

4. It Contains Harmful Additives

What makes lean such a dangerous drug goes beyond just codeine. Add in large amounts of promethazine and dextromethorphan into the mix and the risks begin to multiply quickly.

Promethazine is a common antihistamine. In small dosages it is perfectly safe, but it’s toxic in larger amounts. When promethazine is abused, it can cause a variety of health complications such as2

  • Quickened heart rate
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Hallucinations
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
  • Serious breathing problems
  • Seizures

With popular demand for lean, prices for the drug have skyrocketed. To obtain a cheaper high, some are turning to cough syrups with dextromethorphan [DXM] instead.

5. Lean Is Addictive

Like other opioids, prolonged abuse of lean can lead to addiction. When a person becomes addicted to codeine or other opioids they tend to use compulsively and excessively without regard for their own wellbeing.

Given that lean is expensive, and opioid tolerance can build quickly, it is not uncommon for Lean drinkers to fall into using stronger and more available opioids like hydrocodone, fentanyl, and heroin.4

According to one study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 86 percent of a sample of urban drug users injecting heroin had also used prescription opioids in the past.4

6. Using Codeine Without a Prescription Is Illegal

Some are under the assumption that because Lean is a medicine and cough syrup, there less of a risk of doing hard time. This is actually untrue.

As an opioid with long-standing medicinal use, lean is labeled as a Schedule III substance. But don’t let this designation fool you, being caught with Lean can still mean jail time and severe fines.

In California, being in possession or under the influence of codeine is punishable by up to a year in prison and up to 20,00 dollars in fines. Selling codeine could land you up to 9 years in prison.5

7. Lean Withdrawals Can be Intense

The effects and symptoms of opioids like codeine can vary based on a variety of factors such as age, overall health, and a history of drug use.

Lean withdrawal symptoms can be severe and may include the following:6

  • Powerful cravings
  • Negative changes to mood such as feelings of hopelessness, sadness, depression, and anger.
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Nausea, diarrhea and constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure and increased heart rate
  • Muscle, joint, and bone pain
  • Insomnia and restlessness

It’s also important to mention the symptoms of an opioid withdrawal are potentially fatal. With the help of drug rehab, however, it is possible to significantly reduce these risks.

Treatment Options for Drug & Alcohol Abuse at All American Detox

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Are you or a loved one suffering from opioid addiction or abuse?

Lean and other opioids can rewire your brain and eventually lead to addiction. Since opioid use can also cause severe physical withdrawals, it is crucial to detox under the care of trained professionals

At All American Detox Center, we offer rehabilitation and drug detoxification programs for a variety of substances including opioids and painkillers, alcohol, benzodiazepines, stimulants, and other types of prescription drugs. To learn more about our accredited detox and rehabilitation programs, call us at (844) 570 -1301.

Conclusion – How to Get Help

In this article we discussed the many reasons why lean is so dangerous. For younger users the biggest risk comes from a lack of understanding. Lean tastes good and appears harmless, but it’s a dangerous opioid that is as harmful to the body as it is addictive.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, don’t put it off any longer. Call our drug rehab center today at (844) 570-1301.


Drugwatch information sheet lean (purple drank/syrup). (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2022, from http://thedrugswheel.com/drugwatch/Lean_Infosheet_DrugWatch_1_0_Pro.pdf 

Saleh, N. (2022, May 8). Purple drank: Everything you’ve been afraid to ask. Verywell Mind. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/is-purple-drank-going-down-1123889 

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Dextromethorphan: Medlineplus drug information. MedlinePlus. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682492.html 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, March 22). Prescription opioids Drugfacts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids 

Illegal possession or selling of “Codeine” in California. Shouse Law Group. (2022, June 9). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/defense/crimes/codeine/ 

MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Codeine withdrawal: Symptoms, timeline, causes, and treatments. Medical News Today. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326849#symptoms 

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