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This drug has not only given Houston a nasty monicker but has also sent Lil’ Wayne spiraling into a dangerous drug addiction he got hospitalized for in 2016.  So what exactly is Lean and why is it notorious not just in Houston, but all over America?  Let’s take a deeper look at this drug, its connection with the Hip-hop and pop culture, and why it’s dangerous.  

What is Lean?

Also called Purple Drank, Texas Tea, or Sizzurp, Lean is a lethal cocktail made of codeine-based cough syrup, soda and hard candy (preferably Jolly Ranchers).  Codeine is a poppy-derived narcotic pain reliever and cough suppressant. While it’s considered an opioid, it’s weaker than morphine. 

However, codeine is still highly addictive and long term use can cause damage to the body.  

Other variations use Dextromethorphan (DXM) instead of codeine, with the addition of alcohol.  

Where did it come from?  

Lean has been around for the past 5 decades.  Its earliest predecessor was a mixture of Robitussin and beer taken by blues musicians back in the 1960s in Houston.  Later, beer was replaced by wine coolers. It wasn’t until the 1980s when Codeine replaced Robitussin by Houston rappers as the principal ingredient of Lean.  

By early ‘90’s, Houston-based DJ Screw brought the concoction out of the Houston underground scene into a wider audience in Texas with Chopped and Screwed, a Hiphop music style which was said to be inspired by the effect of Lean.  it was said that drinking Lean enhanced the experience of listening to chopped and screwed music.       

It wasn’t until DJ Screw’s death in the year 2000 that Lean was majorly outlawed in Houston.    

By late ’90s and early 2000s, the popularity of Lean has spread nationwide thanks to the music of Three 6 Mafia and Lil’ Wayne.  Since then, a lot of celebrities have admitted to using and almost dying of lean drug abuse and misuse, including American rapper Future, Juice Wrld, and Justin Beiber.     

In a TMZ report in 2017, rapper Lil’ Wayne has suffered seizures that landed him in the hospital a couple of times due to the consumption of high volumes of codeine.  While he acknowledged difficulty to quit, saying going without it was like “death in your stomach”.

Despite the number of celebrities warning others about the dangerous effects of the codeine or DXM concoction, many still glamorize the drink and even named it the “Heroin of the Hiphop world”.  

Why is it popular?  

Lean is popular because of the high it gives to the person drinking.  

Codeine, one of lean’s main ingredients, works the same way as other opiates, by slowing down brain activity.  This then translates to a feeling of euphoria and extreme relaxation (pretty much like floating). After drinking, the effects start to kick in in about 30-45 minutes, depending on how much codeine the concoction contains, and lasts for 6 hours. 

Another reason for its popularity is the accessibility of its main ingredients.  Codeine, compared to other opiates, is easier to procure as it’s less regulated. But getting products containing codeine will still require a prescription to avoid misuse.  

No prescription?  No problem. Dextromethorphan (DXM) can be bought without prescription (although, in some states, you need to be 18 to buy medication that contains this ingredient). The effect of DXM, however, is much similar to that of ketamine, which is a hallucinogenic.    

The Effects of Lean and Why it’s Dangerous

Undesirable Short Term Effects

Apart from the euphoria and the ethereal calm it gives you, drinking lean can also cause these other side effects:  

  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Constipation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Long term Effects

Addiction

Long term use of codeine can also have fatal consequences. With increased intake, the body could develop tolerance, which could lead to dependence, and later on, addiction. 

Liver Damage

In addition, it can also cause liver damage.  Acetaminophen is commonly found in cough medication that is used in making lean.  And we’re talking about high levels of cough medication. High amounts of Acetaminophen can overwork your liver, thus preventing it to properly metabolize the chemicals.     

Cognitive impairment

Prolonged use of codeine can also lead to brain lesions that could cause cognitive impairment, memory loss, and changes in behavior.  It can also lead to psychosis.    

Introduction to other Opioids

Codeine is a gateway drug, which could lead to the use of more potent opioids, such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl.  

Mixing with Alcohol and other Substances

In extreme cases, lean is often mixed with alcohol to enhance its effect, or to shorten the onset time.  

While this combination can get you higher, it’s not always a good idea.  Mixing alcohol with codeine or DXM can, at the very least, cause trouble breathing, sleepiness, delayed reaction time and brain fog. At worse, it can cause respiratory depression, which could lead to a coma or death due to the lack of oxygen in the brain.  

If you are taking other prescription medication, or other illicit drugs, this can have a harmful interaction with codeine or DXM.  For instance, it can intensify the sedating effects of antidepressants.  

DXM and Robotripping

Some lean drinkers replace codeine with DXM as they’re easier to procure.  DXM can be found in cough medications such as NyQuil and Robitussin, which can be purchased over the counter.  The use of DXM instead of codeine is called Robotripping, and its effect is much similar to ketamine than codeine.  It causes hallucinations and the sensation of flying.  

Robotripping is just as dangerous as drinking lean with codeine.  Overdosing on DXM can cause:  

  • Seizures
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Coma

Rehabilitation

It’s easy to underestimate the power of lean and its potential to cause drug addiction.  For starters, codeine is considered a weaker opioid. Long term use, however, can be fatal.  It has, as a matter of fact, led to the deaths of many prominent figures such as A$AP Yam and DJ Screw.  

If you or someone you know is suffering from Lean addiction, know that it is never too late. Seeking professional help is the best option. Addiction to opioid will require medically-assisted detoxification as the withdrawal symptoms can be very painful and in some instances, deadly.  Call Roots Through Recovery via (866) 766-8776 to schedule a FREE consultation with our team or visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807. 

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