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Purple Drank: The Codeine Cocktail

Purple drank that is mixed with cough syrup, codeine and soda or candy

Because of their creativity and persistence, teenagers have the capacity to do things that seem dangerous. These traits can also lead teens to produce innovative-yet-dangerous methods of achieving temporary pleasure and enjoyment. The party concoction known as purple drank falls into this second category.

A Closer Look at Purple Drank

Purple drank is known by several other names as well, including drank, lean and sizzurp. It first surfaced over half a century ago in the Houston area and was also popular in the urban community in the early 2000s. Rappers and professional athletes have been linked to purple drank, and the cocktail was responsible for hospitalizing performer Lil’ Wayne and killing hip-hop producer Pimp C.

The main ingredient in purple drank is promethazine, a prescription cough syrup that is often used to treat nausea and vomiting. Promethazine-codeine cough syrup is often misused by people for its euphoric properties. When mixed with the opioid codeine, the sizzurp can produce euphoric, sedative and dissociative effects on the body. Typically, purple drank is mixed with soda or hard candy to enhance its flavor and is typically served in styrofoam cups.

Symptoms and Side Effects

Due to the presence of codeine, purple drank can be as addictive as other opioids such as Vicodin or heroin. Regular users often exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Constricted pupils
  • Eyes that droop or move uncontrollably
  • Dizziness or blurred vision
  • Raspy voice
  • Pale or dry skin
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dental problems

It can also produce serious side effects such as:

  • Intense drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Heightened reflexes
  • Spasms or involuntary movements
  • Delirium

Though it’s difficult to ascertain how often it happens, purple drank overdose can occur and be fatal — especially if the cocktail is mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

How Much Should Parents Worry?

Due to the severe consequences stemming from purple drank misuse (and likely the accompanying negative press), promethazine’s supplier, Actavis, discontinued the production of the cough syrup a few years ago. But there are reportedly still bottles of promethazine floating around on the black market and being sold by dealers (and cartels) for top dollar.

Also, physicians still prescribe promethazine to treat nausea, vomiting and allergy symptoms, so enterprising teens may be able to steal it from the medicine cabinets of family members. Or they might produce an altered version of purple drank using modern over-the-counter cough syrup that contains dextromethorphan.

If you’re a parent who is concerned that your teenager may be consuming purple drank, there are clues you can look for in your home. These include missing bottles of cough syrup, discarded Styrofoam cups with remnants of purple liquid, purple-colored stains on clothing, or a sudden unexplained preference for flavored hard candy and/or copious amounts of lemon-lime soda, like Sprite.

It is essential to stress to your teen that purple drank is far from harmless and mixing meds is dangerous in any combination. Now that promethazine is off the market, this perilous cocktail will hopefully one day follow in the footsteps of Quaaludes, the club drug which became all but extinct not long after it was removed from the market in the mid-1980s. Until then, parents must remain vigilant for signs of purple drank in their homes and communities.

Purple drank can be addictive and cause significant health problems for those who misuse it. If you’re concerned that your teenager is consuming purple drank and may be unable to stop, contact Next Generation Village today for help.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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