Article at a Glance:

  • Codeine can make a person feel high because it converts to morphine in the brain and binds to opioid receptors.
  • Mixing codeine, promethazine, and sodas like Sprite is a recreational combination called purple drank, purple Sprite, dirty Sprite or lean.
  • The effects of codeine products last for about four to six hours.
  • The codeine in purple drank can be detected in a urine drug test for up to three days.

What Is Codeine?

Codeine is a prescription opioid that is a controlled substance in the U.S. The drug is prescribed to treat mild-to-moderate pain and as a cough suppressor.

Codeine is available in different forms, including pills, and as a syrup. It is frequently used in combination with other substances like acetaminophen. Codeine’s potency is mild compared to other opioids, 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 into morphine once it reaches the brain. The drug then binds to opioid receptors, triggering a flood of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine. This leads to euphoria and other pleasant feelings, as well as drowsiness and even sedation.

Risks Associated With Using Codeine

Like other opioids, codeine also carries a risk of physical dependence and addiction. A person may start using relatively mild codeine and then move to more powerful opioids to get more of a high. Sometimes, people may even combine codeine with other substances, like promethazine and Sprite, to intensify their high. A common illicit combination of codeine, promethazine and Sprite is called purple drank.

The codeine component of purple drank is primarily responsible for the effects of this mixture. Promethazine and codeine are central nervous system depressants, meaning that a person can stop breathing when the drugs are taken together in high doses. These risks are even more significant if another depressant like alcohol is used in conjunction with the purple drank.

Mixing Codeine and Sprite

Codeine and Sprite became a popular mixture among illicit drug users in Texas in the 1990s. Also known as “purple drank,” this combination is a way to abuse codeine and get high.

What is Purple Drank?

A recreational drug cocktail created by mixing codeine, Sprite, and Jolly Ranchers. Although preparations can vary, other common ingredients include:

  • Promethazine, an antihistamine
  • Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant
  • Sodas like Sprite or Mountain Dew
  • Ice
  • Hard fruit candies like Jolly Ranchers

Besides purple drank, other slang names for a mixture of codeine and Sprite include:

  • Sizzurp
  • Lean
  • Drank
  • Purple jelly
  • Texas tea
  • Dirty Sprite
  • Robo tripping

Are Codeine and Lean the Same Thing?

Codeine and lean are not the same thing. However, they are related to one another: codeine is the opioid ingredient in lean.

Is Lean Bad for You?

Lean can be dangerous and can cause a deadly overdose. Codeine on its own is a pain reliever and cough suppressant. When combined with promethazine in the so-called lean drink, it creates an amplified sedative effect. This is because both codeine and promethazine are central nervous system depressants, meaning that they slow down the central nervous system. Combining multiple central nervous system depressants can have an additive effect on the body, increasing the risk of overdose.

infographic showing the reasons why mixing codeine and sprite is dangerous

Why Is Purple Drank So Popular?

Purple drank became popular in the 1990s after being the subject of several rap songs and videos. The concoction itself is sweet-tasting due to both the soda and candy components. For this reason, a person might not even feel like they are taking medications until they start feeling high.

People who used purple drank soon became aware of the substance’s euphoric effects. When someone has codeine and Sprite mixed together in the form of lean, they feel a dissociative sense of euphoria, lethargy, drowsiness and impairment of their motor skills. In many cases, purple drank is also taken along with alcohol or other drugs, upping the risks even more.

Although it still has a reputation for being linked to rappers and athletes, studies have shown that people who use purple drank do not fit a particular stereotype. However, risk factors for using purple drank include:

  • Being male
  • Being LGBTQ
  • Being a college student in an urban area

What are the Effects of Lean?

Besides euphoria, purple drank can cause a variety of side effects. Many of these are unpleasant and dangerous.

Over the short term, side effects can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Memory problems
  • Dissociative behavior
  • Loss of control
  • Watery eyes
  • Balance problems
  • Cognitive problems

People who use purple drank over the long term may experience additional side effects and health problems. These include:

  • Dental decay
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Urinary tract infections

infographic showing some of the side effects from mixing codeine and sprite

Can You Overdose on Lean?

Respiratory depression, or slowed breathing, is one of the most dangerous effects of purple drank. As a central nervous system depressant, codeine can cause slowed breathing. However, purple drank’s other ingredients like promethazine can also cause slowed breathing.

Due to these additive effects, purple drank has a high risk of overdose, which can be fatal. The rapper DJ Screw, who made purple drank famous in his songs, died from a purple drank overdose. Other celebrities, like Lil Wayne, were hospitalized due to overdosing on purple drank.

How Long Does Purple Drank Stay in Your System?

The effects of codeine are short-term and last four to six hours. However, no specific drug test or timeline exists for purple drank because the ingredients can vary. That said, there is an estimated detection window based on how long codeine can be detected in the body.

This will vary by drug test type:

If you’re struggling with a dependence or addiction to codeine or any of the other ingredients in purple drank, help is available. Addiction experts at The Recovery Village offer evidence-based treatment programs that can lead you to a healthier, codeine-free life. Contact us today to get started.

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