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Purple drank is a mixture of cough syrup, Jolly Ranchers and Sprite and is a particular favorite of "Dirty South" style rappers and your grandmother when she has a dry cough (minus the candy and Sprite). Also referred to as "lean," "drank," "sizzurp," or in a chemists as "codeine linctus," its users often prefer to "sip" the mixture over time eventually catching a weak opiate buzz. Initially, the original cough syrup was purple, hence the name.
Wait, purple drank is just cough syrup?
Yes, the most common form of purple drank contains:
- Codeine: A weak opiate that is turned into morphine by your liver by the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP2D6. This results in a mild euphoric "buzz" and also a massive histamine release when taken at larger doses.
- Promethazine: A first generation antihistamine. This helps with the itchiness that codeine causes as well as having a synergistic effect due to it causing drowsiness
- To make the cough syrup more desirable, candy such as Jolly Ranchers are added and the mixture diluted, traditionally with Sprite.
- Occasionally alcohol, usually in the form of vodka. Reasons for inclusion in the brew are pretty self-explanatory.
Because your average "purple drank" user has an IQ measurable in double digits (which might explain the way the drink is spelled) they fail to realize some key points about "drank":
- The requirement to convert to morphine is rate-limited by your liver. This gives even pure codeine a "ceiling effect" where higher doses no longer produce a larger effect.
- Codeine itself blocks the further metabolism of more codeine. This is why pain medicines say to take your doses 4 hours apart. Sipping an already diluted mixture over time reduces its effects compared to taking it in a single dose.
- Both codeine and promethazine cause constipation.
- Promethazine can cause seizures: ask Lil Wayne.
Despite being the nutmeg of opiates, "purple drank" has found a following among rappers and rap culture. So far this has killed:
- Rapper Pimp C, from the group UGK, died from an overdose of purple drank. UGK had previously sung on the Three 6 Mafia's single "Sippin' on Some Syrup".
- DJ Screw, who popularized the codeine-based drink through his "chopped and screwed" sound (think hip-hop slowed by a half), died of a codeine-promethazine-alcohol overdose on November 16, 2000.
- Big Moe, a DJ Screw protégé, whose albums include City of Syrup and Purple World, died at age 33 on October 14, 2007, after suffering a heart attack one week earlier. "Drank" causes seizures and CNS depression and was suspected in his death.
"Purple drank" seems to be popular in the NFL with several players caught with "drank" including Terrence Kiel, a San Diego Chargers player, and Johnny Jolly, a Green Bay Packers player. Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was arrested at his home in Mobile, Alabama, for possession of codeine syrup without a prescription.
On March 15, 2013, Lil Wayne was hospitalized with seizures caused by "drank". This is despite an interview in 2008 where he described the withdrawal as feeling “like death in your stomach when you stop".
Why take purple drank
- You are 14 and found cough syrup in the medicine cabinet
- You are or want to pretend to be a rapper
- You like your teeth falling out due to excessive sugar consumption as most syrups are sweetened with a ton of sugar
- You like an opiate addiction without any of the fun of heroin or the quaint, Victorian charm of opium
Why not to take purple drank
- You can get any other opiate. Drank is to opiates what 2% beer is to getting drunk.
- The rise and fall of Miami's 'CEO of Purple Drank' by Kyle Swenson (August 21 at 5:05 AM, The Washington Post) — Harrison Garcia, purple drank kingpin, convicted of drug trafficking, also faces charges of racketeering related to pharmacy burglaries