What Is a Lean Drink?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 18, 2023

Table of Contents

Lean is a dangerous, illicit drink that goes by many names, including lean drink, purple lean, purple drank, dirty sprite, lean drug, lean purple drank, and sizzurp. Lean is a made from a combination of soft drinks, candy, and prescription-strength cough medicine – typically codeine. The codeine content of lean drink is what makes it especially dangerous.

This guide explores the following issues:

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  • Is lean a drug?
  • What is lean drink?
  • What is in the drink lean?
  • What side effects are associated with lean?
  • What does lean do to you?
  • What is lean addiction?
  • How to get help for lean abuse.

What is Lean?

Lean is an illicit substance made with cough syrup containing codeine (an opioid) and promethazine (an antihistamine). This cough syrup is typically purple in color, for which purple lean is named. Additional ingredients that may be used in lean include soda, hard candies, and alcohol.

Although people of all ages drink lean, lean abuse is most common among teens and young adults due to the way drinking lean has been glamorized by recording artists and entertainers.

Rapper Future was one of the main proponents of drinking lean, recording a song called Codeine Crazy to illustrate the effects of lean. Chicago rapper Juice WRLD died after taking an overdose of codeine. He claimed that he started using the drink called lean after listening to Future’s music. Future has now stopped drinking lean, despite concealing his abstinence from fans for some time.

What is in lean drink that makes it so dangerous then?

What Is in Lean Drinks?

 Lean is sometimes known as codeine drink because the primary ingredients are cough syrups that contain codeine and promethazine. Codeine is a prescription opioid painkiller, and promethazine is an antihistamine used for the treatment of allergies. Combining these two substances induces a sedative effect, and triggers drowsiness, relaxation, and euphoria. Ingesting too much lean can cause people to stagger or lean, even leading to fatalities in some cases.

Some people also add other addictive substances to intensify the sedative effects delivered, however, the inclusion of other substances makes lean even more dangerous.

It is also possible to become addicted to lean rapidly due to the way in which opioids like cocaine disrupt the reward response system of the brain.

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Lean FAQs

Is Lean Addictive?

Prolonged usage of opioids, such as codeine present in purple drank, can result in drug tolerance, leading to the need for more significant quantities of the substance to achieve the desired effects. This behavior can result in physiological dependence, which triggers a variety of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if an addicted person attempts to discontinue the drug. If you become dependent on opioids, you will experience aggravating withdrawal symptoms when you moderate or discontinue use.

Can you Withdraw From Lean?

Yes, you can withdraw from lean if dependence has formed. The initial phase of codeine (main ingredient in lean) withdrawal typically involves symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, sleep difficulties, muscle aches, runny nose, sweating, and elevated heart and breathing rates. If a person has been consuming purple drank in high doses or for extended periods, withdrawal symptoms may intensify and become more unpleasant, including vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping.

What Drug Is In Lean?

The primary drug in lean is codeine, a prescription opioid-based painkiller that is highly addictive and potentially life-threatening if misused. In the United States, codeine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means it has some medical utility but a high potential for abuse and addiction. Codeine is only available with a prescription.

In addition to codeine, lean also contains promethazine, an antihistamine drug that enhances the sedative effects of codeine when used in combination. Promethazine, like codeine, is a central nervous system depressant. This means that the drug can slow breathing and brain activity. When promethazine is combined with codeine, this can increase the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression.

What is Purple Lean?

Purple lean, otherwise known as purple drank, is a recreational drug that has gained popularity in recent years, especially among younger adults. Purple lean combines two drugs – codeine and promethazine – with soda and candy to create a sweet-tasting and brightly colored drink that can be dangerous.

Side Effects of Drinking Lean

Lean is named for the effect it has on those who drink it – they tend to lean to one side or slouch the more lean that they consume.

The effects of drinking lean are similar to the effects delivered by other addictive opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin, and fentanyl.

The side effects of lean typically set in after 30 to 45 minutes. That said, some people use dangerous amounts of codeine in lean, using more than 20 times the recommended dose. This may accelerate the onset of side effects.

Side effects peak 1 to 2 hours after drinking lean, lasting for up to 6 hours, depending on the amount of codeine and promethazine used.

Side Effects

Lean side effects may vary according to factors such as:

  • Amount of lean consumed
  • Tolerance to opioids
  • Presence of other addictive substances in lean drink

These are the most common side effects associated with purple drink:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Respiratory depression
  • Fatal coma

The risk of respiratory depression and coma is increased when lean is taken in high doses or when mixed with alcohol or other drugs.

As well as triggering the above physical side effects, lean abuse can also lead to adverse mental health outcomes – an increased risk of anxiety and depression, for example.

Long-term abuse of lean may also lead to the development of addiction (opioid use disorder). Opioid addiction is associated with many negative consequences, including relationship issues, legal problems, and financial stress.

The sustained abuse of purple drank can also cause widespread health issues, such as:

  • Weight gain
  • Tooth decay
  • UTIs
  • Breathing problems
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Seizures
A woman sits with her hand on her face to represent the question, "What does lean contain?".

The Dangers of Drinking Lean

The abuse of lean or purple drank can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences. Some of the dangers of lean abuse include:

  • Addiction: The codeine present in lean is highly addictive, and long-term use can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
  • Respiratory depression: Lean can cause slow and shallow breathing, which can lead to respiratory distress or even respiratory failure.
  • Overdose: Overdose can occur when a person takes too much lean, causing their body to shut down. Symptoms of an overdose include slowed breathing, loss of consciousness, and extreme drowsiness.
  • Seizures: The abuse of lean can cause seizures, which can be life-threatening.
  • Liver damage: The large amounts of codeine present in lean can cause liver damage, which can lead to liver failure and death.
  • Cardiovascular problems: The abuse of lean can cause cardiovascular problems such as an irregular heartbeat or even heart failure.
  • Cognitive impairment: The abuse of lean can cause cognitive impairment, including memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and decreased decision-making ability.

Any abuse of lean can have serious and life-threatening consequences. Lean drink should be avoided at all costs.

Overdose

Reduced heart rate and respiratory depression are major causes of overdose-related deaths, and both can be dangerous individually. This is because opioids like codeine can significantly slow a person’s heart or breathing to the point where they stop breathing entirely, ultimately resulting in death if left untreated. The risk of respiratory depression increases when lean is combined with other substances like alcohol or drugs, further increasing the chances of overdose or death.

Some common warning signs of an overdose on lean include:

  • Irregular heartbeat or heart arrhythmia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Marked drowsiness or sedation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Disinhibition or engaging in risky behaviors
  • Slow or shallow breathing, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • Profound lethargy
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

An overdose on lean can lead to severe brain damage, organ damage, coma, or death.

If you suspect someone has overdosed on lean, take the following steps before calling emergency services:

  • Gather information about the person’s age, weight, and condition.
  • Note the name of the product, its ingredients, and strength if you know them.
  • Determine when the lean was consumed and the amount taken.

During an opioid overdose, take the following steps:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Administer naloxone if it is available. Naloxone (Narcan) is a safe medication that can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose for a short period of time.
  • Try to ensure that the person remains awake and breathing.
  • Lay them on their side to reduce the likelihood of choking.
  • Remain with the person until emergency responders arrive.

What To Do If You’re Addicted to Lean

Consider the following options to receive treatment for compulsive lean use:

  • Detoxification: Opt for a medically supervised detox program, which can offer short-term inpatient treatment to help you safely and comfortably navigate the first few hours or days of recovery. Afterward, you can transition to an inpatient addiction treatment program for continued recovery.
  • Inpatient treatment: Inpatient programs provide 24/7 care and require you to live at a treatment facility. They may be best suited for individuals with severe addiction and who can benefit from the added supervision provided in an inpatient setting.
  • Outpatient treatment: During outpatient treatment, you can receive treatment for 2 to 8 hours per day, 2 to 5 days per week. You can return to your home or a sober living community outside of treatment hours.
  • 12-step groups: Consider joining 12-step groups such as NA (Narcotics Anonymous), which incorporate member stories, helpful literature, and a sponsor support system to guide you through the steps of recovery.
  • Non-12-step support groups: Similar to 12-step groups, non-12-step support groups like SMART Recovery offer a group environment that encourages self-paced recovery with a more secular-based philosophy.

Lean can be lethal in high doses or when mixed with other sedative drugs or alcohol. Prolonged use can lead to severe health problems and even death. Don’t postpone seeking the necessary help to overcome lean addiction.

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Get Rehab for Lean Addiction at Renaissance Recovery Centers

If you have developed a codeine addiction as a result of abusing lean drink, we can help you initiate a sustained recovery at Renaissance Recovery Centers in Southern California.

We specialize in the intensive outpatient treatment of opioid addictions at our luxury beachside rehab. We also treat mental health disorders and opioid addictions that co-occur with mental health disorders.

If you require a supervised medical detox, we can connect you with accredited detox centers throughout Southern California. You can then transition into one of these treatment programs at Renaissance:

  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program (for co-occurring disorders)

All treatment programs provide individualized opioid addiction treatment that combines holistic and science-backed therapies that include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare

Despite its glamorized image, lean abuse can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Reach out for help today by calling admissions at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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