Scores of rappers reference purple drank in their songs. Rapper Lil Wayne is addicted to it. The deaths of Pimp C and DJ Screw were linked to purple drank. Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was arrested for possession of codeine syrup without a prescription.

Purple drank was described in a New American Media article as a "new addiction among young people in inner-city communities. A legal but deadly cocktail, a mixture of Sprite and Promethazine/Codeine cough syrup."

Read more about the history of this dangerous drink, its effects, and purple drank treatment options.

What is Purple Drank?
Purple drank is a mixture of a few ounces of promethazine/codeine prescription cough syrup and 8 ounces or more of a lemon-lime soda like Sprite, Sierra Mist or 7Up. The purple comes from the syrup dye. Often, Jolly Ranchers or Skittles are added for flavor.

Promethazine is used to "treat allergy symptoms," according to drugs.com, "such as itching, runny nose, sneezing…."

Codeine is a mild pain reliever and is in the class of medications called opiate analgesics. It works by changing the way the body senses pain. It's also "the most widely used naturally occurring narcotic in medical treatment in the world," according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Prescription cough syrup contains both codeine and promethazine. Both are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. When taken in large doses, this combination can slow breathing and even stop the heart. Combine this with its highly addictive properties and purple drank treatment becomes even more important.

Common street names include sizzurp, lean, syrup, sip sip, drank, barre, purple jelly and Texas tea.

The Slow History
Purple drank grew out of the underground Houston hip-hop community in the 1990s along with chopped and screwed rap music—a slowed down, remixing of rap songs using skipped beats and scratching. DJ Screw aka Robert Earl Davis Jr. is said to have originated the style of the slow chopped and screwed, which compliments purple drank's effects of relaxing the user.

DJ Screw died in 2000 of a codeine overdose. That same year, Three 6 Mafia's song "Sippin' on Some Syrup" made purple drank mainstream. The group's song "Rainbow Colors" is about adding Jolly Rancher candy to create the desired rainbow.

Around this same time, evidence of purple drank began showing up across the South from Lafayette, Louisiana to Pensacola, FL.

In a 2004 University of Texas survey, according to a USA Today article, "8.3% of Texas secondary students reported having taken enough codeine syrup to get high."

Terrence Kiel, a defensive back with the San Diego Chargers was arrested in 2006 for illegally shipping cases of prescription cough syrup to Texas.

In a 2008 MTV interview with Lil Wayne, the rapper discusses his addiction to purple drink, and how hard it is to get off it, saying it feels like "death in your stomach."

Purple Drank Effects
The effects are similar to other opioids, providing a sedative, woozy or swooning euphoria.

Side Effects
Drugs.com lists the following side effects for the combination Promethazine/Codeine:

  • Restless muscles movements in the eyes, tongue, jaw, neck
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Feeling like you might pass out
  • Confusion, agitation, hallucinations
  • Seizure
  • Urinating less than usual
  • Stiff muscles
  • High fever, sweating
  • Dizziness, drowsiness
  • Feeling restless
  • Insomnia

Withdrawal
Just ask Lil Wayne about withdrawing from purple drank. It hurts. Withdrawal from any opiate (heroin, morphine, vicodin, etc.) is painful and can last from 4 to 7 days depending on how hooked you are. If you're considering detox, seek help at a purple drank treatment center.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Agitation
  • Muscle aches
  • Goose Bumps
  • Runny Nose
  • Teary eyes

Purple Drank Treatment
If you know you need help, the first step in purple drank treatment is detoxing in a medically supervised environment. Learn more about detox methods.

Treatment centers may use a variety of medications to help ease the effects of detox as well as relieve cravings. Here are some popular options:

  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone) is an opioid that can be prescribed by a physician and is used in opiate replacement therapy.  
  • Methadone, a synthetic opioid, has been used in heroin drug treatment for over three decades.  It eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves craving.
  • Naltrexone is an opioid receptor blocker that is used to help a patient relapse. Because it can itself produce withdrawal symptoms, the patient must have already been detoxified. It's also used for alcohol abuse treatment.
  • Naloxone is an opioid receptor blocker that counteracts the effects of opioids.

Additional purple drank treatment may include some combination of individual and group counseling, contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Summary
Though purple drank is not as popular as other "fad" drugs, it's addictive effects and health dangers are not to be taken lightly. If you or someone you love is addicted, search the recoverycorps.org database for a purple drank treatment center near you.