Codeine is a prescription drug that’s a controlled substance in the U.S. It’s classified as an opioid, which is why it’s controlled, and it’s given to treat pain ranging from mild to moderate, and also as a cough suppressor.
Codeine is available in different forms including pills including as pills and as a syrup, and it’s frequently used in combination medicines with other substances like acetaminophen. Among opioids, it’s one of the milder options, but there are still risks associated with its use. For example, people often abuse codeine in order to feel high.
You can feel high from codeine because it converts to morphine once it reaches the brain and then binds to opioid receptors. When this happens, it triggers a flood of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, which can lead to euphoria and other pleasant feelings, as well as drowsiness and even sedation. How much a person feels high with codeine depends a lot on their individual characteristics, as well as the dose they use.
There’s also the risk of physical dependence and addiction with codeine, as is the case with other opioids. This is why the term opioid epidemic makes headlines so frequently. These drugs are highly addictive, and even though codeine is less potent than other prescription opioids, addiction is still possible. It’s also common for people to start using codeine and then move to more powerful opioids to get more of a high.
Something that’s also talked about is the combination of codeine and Sprite. Why do people mix codeine and Sprite, and what are the effects of codeine and Sprite?
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Mixing Codeine and Sprite
Codeine and Sprite are discussed together because of something called “purple drank.” Purple drank is a way to abuse codeine and get high that involves mixing codeine and Sprite with ice and Jolly Rancher candies. Codeine alone isn’t what’s needed to make purple drank. Instead, the medication needs to contain codeine as well as promethazine which is an antihistamine. Purple drank uses the Sprite (or Mountain Dew) for flavor purposes, and the jolly ranchers or hard fruit candy are added for flavoring and color.
Other slang names for codeine and Sprite mixed in purple drank include sizzurp, lean, drank, purple jelly, Texas tea, and dirty Sprite. Purple drank has led to arrests of celebrities, and it’s even been mentioned in songs from artists like Lil’ Wayne and Three Six Mafia. Purple drank is considered addictive because of the opioid component, and it became popular in Houston in the 1990s.
The amount of cough syrup used in purple drank can go above recommended doses by up to 25 times in many cases, making it addictive and highly dangerous.
Why Is Purple Drank So Popular?
The whole reason people use purple drank is because it creates euphoric effects, and although they are mild, they can be risky. When someone has codeine and Sprite mixed together in purple drank they feel a dissociative sense of euphoria, lethargy, drowsiness, and impairment of their motor skills. In many cases purple drank is also used along with alcohol or other drugs, upping the risks even more.
The codeine component of purple drank is what’s primarily responsible for the effects of this concoction. Promethazine and codeine are depressants of the central nervous system, which controls respiration, so when these drugs are taken together in high doses, a person can stop breathing. These risks are even more significant if another depressant like alcohol is used in conjunction with the purple drank.
The Side Effects of Mixing Codeine and Sprite
As was touched on above, the effects of codeine and Sprite, or more specifically purple drank, can feel euphoric and it leads to a sense of disassociation. People who use codeine and Sprite in this way may also feel drowsy and sedated, and this combination is addictive. It’s also possible to develop a physical dependence to purple drank, so when you try to stop using it, you go through withdrawal.
Respiratory depression is one of the most dangerous effects of codeine and Sprite in purple drank. It’s not just the codeine that can cause respiratory depression. It’s also the phenothiazine that’s an antihistamine which is actually a more potent respiratory depressant. If someone overdoses on purple drank they might experience respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest, and mixing purple drank with CNS depressants like alcohol ups these risks even more.
Rappers who made purple drank famous in their songs have actually died from its use, including DJ Screw.
Even if someone doesn’t overdose or die because of purple drank containing codeine and Sprite, there are many adverse side effects. Some of the other effects include slow, slurred speech, constricted pupils, slow heart rate, loss of balance and coordination, constipation and dental problems.
How Long Does Purple Drank Stay in your System?
The effects of codeine are short-term and last four to six hours. There is no specific drug test or timeline for purple drank. There is an estimated detection window based on how long codeine can be detected in the system.
- This will vary by drug test type:
- Urine tests can detect codeine for 24 to 48 hours.
- Blood tests should be taken within 30 minutes to one hour after the last dose to hit the peak plasma time, however, they can detect codeine for up to 24 hours.
- Hair tests can detect codeine within two to three weeks and for up to 90 days.
- Saliva tests can detect codeine for up to four days.