Codeine lean is a combination substance that’s also just called lean and purple drank. Lean is a combination of a prescription-strength cough medicine, a soft drink like sprite, and hard, fruit-flavored candies. The prescription cough syrup used to make it includes codeine, as well as something called promethazine.
Promethazine is an antihistamine used to treat symptoms of allergies such as a runny nose or itching. The reason it’s used in lean is because it acts as a sedative. At a small dose it’s considered safe, but when it’s used in high doses or mixed with another sedative, it can be dangerous.
Both codeine and promethazine have sedative effects because they suppress the central nervous system, including respiration and motor functioning.
When people use codeine lean, it can make them feel as if they’re having somewhat of an out-of-body experience, and it can also create mild euphoria and drowsiness. The active ingredients are the codeine and the promethazine, while the Sprite and the hard candy are added for flavor and coloring.
Codeine lean first started being used in the 1980s, and it was often heralded by rappers. It still continues to be discussed in many rap songs, and it’s also led to the death and health problems of rappers who used it.
Some of the side effects of lean can include nausea, blurred vision, dizziness and memory problems. The long-term risks associated with using codeine lean can include tooth decay, weight gain, urinary tract infections, and constipation.
Because of the flavor of the drink which people tend to find pleasant, and the way it’s sipped over long periods of time, it’s relatively easy to lose track of how much you’ve consumed, putting you at high risk for an overdose. There have been reported comas and deaths related to the use of lean. This risk goes up even more when codeine lean is mixed with another type of sedative or something else that’s a depressant such as alcohol.
Since lean can cause respiratory depression, people who have existing breathing problems such as asthma may be more likely to experience adverse outcomes associated with its use.
Along with being prevalent on the rap scene, many young people have started using purple drank because it’s relatively easy to obtain, and they think because it contains medications it’s not harmful. This is an unfortunate misconception.