Lean, sizzurp, or syrup, are street names for an intoxicating and addictive drink made by mixing codeine-promethazine cough syrup with a soft drink and then sipping the resulting mixture to get high. It’s not new; abuse of this drink has been around for years. However, the glamorization of “syrup” and its inebriating effects in recent songs and videos has triggered a rise in popularity for the dangerous mixture.
What does it do?
The drink is made by mixing codeine-based prescription cough medicine with soda, and often, a hard candy. Users then sip the drink throughout the day. The promethazine in the cough syrup acts as a sedative, and the opiate, in this case codeine, creates a feeling of euphoria. One of the street names for the drink is “lean” because as the user sips on the drink throughout the day they get highly intoxicated, like being very drunk, and often need to literally lean on something in order to stand up.
The drugs in the couch syrup, codeine and promethazine both have the potential to depress the central nervous system and respiratory system stopping the heart and lungs. Doctors are also warning that along with side effects like nausea, dizziness, impaired vision and memory loss, abuse of the drug can lead to hallucinations, seizures, and even death, especially when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns, “Teens may think that just because something is available from the pharmacy, it won’t harm them — but that’s not true.”
As the drug is consumed, a tolerance builds and higher and higher doses are needed to feel similar effects. The promethazine can double the amount of codeine that affects the body. Also by consuming the cough syrup with a carbonated drink, the body absorbs even more of the drug.
There is also a major risk for addiction. Like most opiates, the consumption of codeine can lead to chemical dependency as the body’s central nervous system stops producing pain killers or endorphins on its own. These unused nerve cells degenerate and the body is no longer producing its own pain killers. When an addicted user wants to quit, the process is not simple; it often means a painful withdrawal period.
The consumption of prescription cough syrup when not medically necessary is dangerous. The use of drink mixtures like lean, sizzurp, or syrup to get high means risking injury, addiction, or even death.