An opioid-based drink called "lean" has skyrocketed in popularity among teens and young adults in recent years, with one study suggesting that nearly seven percent of college-aged students have tried the concoction. Also known as "purple drank," "sizzurp," or "dirty Sprite," lean has raised concerns among parents, doctors, and lawmakers due to its potential risks and the negative impact it can have on a person’s health. Here are five important things you need to know about lean and the dangerous effects it can cause.

1. What Is Lean?

Lean is a recreational drug that originated in the southern United States by way of Houston, Texas, and has gradually spread to other regions. Typically made in large batches for illicit parties, lean gets its name from its effect on a person’s ability to stand upright and obtains its purple color from prescription cough syrup or the addition of hard candy. Lean is often glorified by popular culture and glamorized by musical artists and celebrities, some of whom have overdosed or died due to the harmful side effects of lean’s ingredients. Its use has sparked debates about the influence of popular culture on substance abuse trends, highlighting the need for awareness and education surrounding its potential risks.

2. What Is In Lean?

Lean is a mixture of prescription-strength cough syrup, typically containing codeine and promethazine, along with other ingredients. Codeine is an opiate analgesic commonly used for its pain-relieving properties, while promethazine is an antihistamine with sedative effects. When consumed together, these substances produce a sedating and euphoric effect.

In addition to codeine and promethazine, lean can also include various other ingredients such as carbonated beverages (commonly soda), hard candies and even alcohol. These additional components may enhance the flavor, but they can also add to the potential risks and side effects of the drug.

3. Is Lean Addictive?

Yes, lean is addictive. The codeine component of lean interacts with the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. Opioids have a powerful effect on the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria and relaxation. However, this pleasurable experience can also create a strong psychological and physical dependence on the drug.

When lean is consumed regularly or in large doses, the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of opioids. Over time, the brain's natural production of certain chemicals that regulate mood and pain perception, such as endorphins, may decrease. This can result in the individual feeling a diminished sense of pleasure and an increased need for lean to achieve the desired effects.

The physical dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to heroin or fentanyl when attempting to quit or reduce its use. Lean withdrawal symptoms may include restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and intense drug cravings. These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and challenging to manage without proper support and medical assistance.

The cycle of addiction can be perpetuated by the social and environmental factors associated with lean use, as well. Peer pressure, cultural influences, and the normalization of lean within certain communities can contribute to continued use and difficulty in quitting. Additionally, co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may further complicate the addiction and make it harder to break free from lean's grip.


4. What Are the Dangers of Drinking Lean?

Consuming lean poses several dangers to an individual's health and well-being. Some of the potential risks associated with lean use include:

  • Respiratory depression: Codeine can suppress the central nervous system, including the respiratory system. High doses of lean or mixing it with other sedatives, such as alcohol, can lead to dangerous levels of respiratory depression, potentially resulting in slowed breathing, oxygen deprivation, and even fatal overdoses.
  • Addiction and dependence: Prolonged or frequent lean use can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it difficult to quit without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Dependency on lean can disrupt daily life, relationships, and overall mental and physical health, and could lead to a debilitating opioid addiction.
  • Risky behavior: The intoxicating effects of lean can impair judgment and coordination, leading to risky behaviors such as driving under the influence or making poor decisions that can have long-lasting consequences.
  • Polydrug use: Lean is often used in conjunction with other substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, which further increases the risk of dangerous interactions and overdose.

5. How Do You Detox from Lean?

Lean detoxification requires a comprehensive and individualized approach. It is crucial to seek professional medical assistance when detoxing from any substance, including lean. The Coleman Institute has a 98% completion rate for our Accelerated Opioid Detox methodology using Naltrexone, a non-addictive opioid-blocking medication that can significantly reduce cravings. 

Recognizing the dangers of lean and seeking professional help are critical steps in overcoming addiction and promoting a healthier lifestyle. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction or dependence on lean, schedule a callback below to learn about the outpatient detox options near you.