What is Lean?


If you are familiar with hip-hop/club culture, you’ve probably heard this drink go by many names. Lean, Purp, Purple Drank, Sizzurp, Drank, Dirty Sprite, and many other names. Lean is a concoction that many artists and celebrities have dabbled in over the years. Artists like Future, Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Soulja Boy and celebrities like Rob Kardashian have all been seen with this drink in hand at one point in their careers. For those who do not know what this concoction is made of, it is a drink mainly consisting of Sprite, hard candy (typically Jolly Ranchers), and codeine cough syrup, which gives the drink its deep purple color. This substance is extremely present in the world of rap music; there are many popular artists and songs that regularly discuss lean consumption, glorifying its effects and use. The purple color of the drink makes it appear as harmless and fun, but it is far from harmless. This concoction can have some dangerous side-effects, long-term and short-term. Today, we’ll be discussing what regular lean consumption can result in and how people are affected by this substance.

History of Lean

Though many people think of lean as something that has sprung up in recent years, it actually started back in the 1980s. Even before this, blues artists from Houston came up with the idea to mix Robitussin and beer for a similar concoction. Eventually, in the 1980s, rap artists came up with the concoction we know today as Lean. The popularity of the drink grew in the southern rap world and has now become a staple in the hip-hop community as a go-to for an intoxicating drink concoction. Unfortunately, this drink has not always been such a “good time” for artists, resulting in the deaths of many in the mid-2000s. From 2000-2009, codeine-related deaths in Australia doubled from previous years. Because of this, medicines with codeine in them have been classified as a Schedule V substance. This means that people are not able to get these medicines without a prescription from a doctor. However, people still manage to get their hands on medicines with codeine in them, like cough syrup.

Effects of Lean

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “It’s just cough syrup. I used to have that when I got a cold as a kid, how bad can it really be?” The main difference between the two is codeine essentially acts like morphine. It breaks down in the liver and turns into morphine which can put a person into a sedated state and relieve pain. Morphine is a controlled substance because it can be highly addictive. In the same way, codeine can be highly addictive if a person were to continually abuse it. It can provide a period of physical and mental numbness, which is something many addicts crave. This substance can even cause a person to lean or slouch due to sedation, which is where its name comes from. The effects are quite similar to other opioids like heroin or oxycodone. Here are some other common effects that lean can have on a person:

  • Sedated state for 4-6 hours
  • Seizures
  • Euphoria
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed Heart Rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Slowed Breathing
  • Impaired Vision

These effects are more related to short-term use and can be seen while the person is under the influence. However, there are also long-term effects that users may not stop to think about:

  • Constipation Issues
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Memory Loss
  • Dental Decay
  • Weight Gain
  • Breathing Issues
  • Low Blood Pressure/High Blood Pressure
  • Abnormal Heartbeat
  • Dry Skin
  • Brain Damage
  • Death
  • Comas

If you take a look at an artist like Lil Wayne, he is known for abusing this substance for years in his early career and it has resulted in serious health issues, multiple seizures, and many trips to the Emergency Room. Though Wayne is now openly trying to quit his consumption of lean, there’s no denying that his popularity and past advocating for the substance has resulted in artists, celebrities, and young people to continually abuse it.

Quitting Lean

Just like any substance out there, quitting lean is not an easy thing to do. As we’ve mentioned previously, artists like Lil Wayne, despite trying to quit regular lean consumption, still openly struggles with his addiction. Wayne once said “[Quitting syrup] feels like death in your stomach when you stop. Everybody wants me to stop all this and all that. It ain’t that easy.” That’s true, quitting is not an easy thing to do, addiction is something that affects you physically and mentally. Substance abuse manipulates your brain’s reward system and starts to be rewired into thinking it needs a certain substance to feel ‘rewarded’. It manipulates the way that dopamine is released in the brain, which is the hormone that is closely related to general happiness. So, if you cut something out of your life that your brain believes makes you happy, it’s going to tell you that you need to use it again. This is what’s known as withdrawal. Withdrawal from lean could look something like this:

  • Anxiety
  • Bloodshot Eyes
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Muscle Pains
  • Nausea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular Heartbeat

These side-effects can pretty much be seen in any kind of substance withdrawal. You may see similar withdrawal symptoms in someone attempting to detox from heroin, meth, cocaine, nicotine, alcohol, etc.

Getting Help

Yes, addiction is a scary thing to admit to and deal with, but it can be beat. The first step in beating a chemical dependency is admitting the fact that you are struggling with addiction. This can be one of the most difficult things for addicts to do because it means they are admitting defeat, and no one likes doing that. But it is okay to not be okay! Once you are able to admit that you are struggling, reach out for help! There are resources online to find support groups or treatment centers that can assist you in your journey to becoming sober. By no means is it going to be easy, the first 30 days are always the hardest, but once you get past withdrawal and initial detox, things start to get better. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to lean or any other substance, seek help today. Help is out there!