Have you ever heard of Lean Drink or Purple Drank? These are street names for a very simple and common drug that is popular around the nation – one that is especially well-known in the southern part of the United States. Made popular by hip-hop artists, some of whom mention it in some of their songs, this drug is easy to make. Therefore, it’s abused by people of all ages and from all walks of life. But, it can be very dangerous and it can also become addictive quickly. Read on to learn more about it.

Where and When Did Lean Drink Originate?

Where did Lean Drink come from, anyway? If you asked someone about it thirty years ago, they probably would not have ever heard of it. Although this concoction actually originated in Houston, Texas in the 1960s, it stayed very local to that area until the 1990s.  A rapper from that area named DJ Screw mentioned this drug in several of his songs around that time, and as he become more popular, so did Lean, also known as Purple Drank.  Soon, other rappers were singing about it as well – and the concept spread like wildfire.

What Is Lean Drink?

The first people to make Lean were blues musicians living in Houston’s more economically depressed areas during the 1960s. These artists decided to try combining Robitussin with beer; later, they combined this over-the-counter cough syrup with wine coolers instead. As time went on, and by the 1980s and 1990s, the cough syrup changed to codeine promethazine cough syrup. This cough syrup is only available by prescription.

As mentioned above, in the 1990s, local rapper DJ Screw decided to tell the world about this drug through his songs and even further, his style. His music was influenced by this drug, Houston’s heat, and Houston’s massive size; together, this combination resulted in very slow beats that, after recorded, he slowed down even further. His contemporaries suggested that his music was like Lean, but in musical form, and his “chopped-and-screwed” style of hip hop spread throughout the local underground scene, and then to the rest of Texas, to the south, and beyond.

Today, Lean, also known as Purple Drank, Purp, Sizzurp, Syrup, Wock, or Oil, is usually a combination of prescription strength cough or cold syrup containing codeine or promethazine and a soft drink.

Unfortunately, DJ Screw died from this drug on November 16, 2000.  The drug that he popularized killed him.

Why Do People Use Lean Drink?

Why do people drink Lean? What happens if you drink Lean? Well, this drug’s name is fitting, as people who have ingested Lean often feel like they are leaning a bit. Ingestion of cough syrup recreationally does exactly what one would think that it would do. It offers mild euphoric side effects, to start. From there, it impairs motor skills, makes users drowsy and lethargic, and acts as a dissociative. When combined with the sweet syrup of soft drinks, it stays on the tongue and in the mouth longer than if it was drunk on its own, and users seem to enjoy this aspect of the combination.

Often, Lean is used in concert with other drugs or alcohol, but as one might imagine, this can increase the dangers of its use.

Lean Drink Effects and Health Risks

Cough syrup is available over the counter in most pharmacies because when it is used as directed, it’s quite safe. Anyone who has used these types of medications when sick knows that they can also be quite effective. It’s a good thing that they exist to help us when we are feeling under the weather.

However, some people require cough syrup that is stronger than what is available over the counter. That’s where codeine promethazine cough syrup comes in. This cough syrup – which today is most common in the creation of Lean – is only available by prescription.

What does Lean do to your body? When used in larger quantities, like when ingested as Lean for recreational purposes, these drugs can quickly become dangerous.

How long does Lean take to kick in? Because it is consumed orally, it will begin entering the user’s blood stream as soon as it is swallowed. As it travels through the digestive system, its effects will increase. Because Lean is consumed like a cocktail or other alcoholic beverage, the user will usually continue to consume the drug over a long period of time, as he or she sips the drink. Soon, the user may become more inebriated than he or she originally intended.

Once in the user’s system, the active ingredients in Lean act as a central nervous system depressant (promethazine) or as a respiratory depressant (codeine), so when consumed in large amounts, these medications can cause someone to stop breathing. When combined with other drugs, the possibility of these side effects increases dramatically. Cardiac arrest is another potential danger. Further, if someone is susceptible to seizures, these drugs can increase the possibility of experiencing one or more during use, which is also quite dangerous.

Further, this drug can become addictive. People who use Lean on a regular basis explain that it can be difficult to stop using the drug, and that they experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.

The Legality of Lean and Its Ingredients

Is Lean illegal? Technically, no.  Since Lean Purple Drink is cough syrup mixed with soft drinks, it’s legal to buy and consume when someone has a prescription for it. However, using it to create Lean is illegal, as the drug is not used as directed when used in this way. If someone has a prescription for it, though, it’s hard to prove misuse. If someone is arrested for possession of Lean, it’s because he or she did not have a prescription for the cough syrup.

Is Lean a drug? Yes. Cough syrup is a drug – it’s a common medicine, but it’s still a drug. Lean drug effects are simply the intended effects of this medicine magnified to a much higher level. People who use the Lean drug recreationally are putting their health and safety at risk to experience brief euphoria –  often again and again until they become addicted.

Real-Life Statistics

Because Lean was popularized by musicians, it should be no surprise that some of the musicians who openly used and promoted this concoction also lost their lives to it. In addition to DJ Screw, numerous other rappers became real-life statistics as a result of consuming and abusing Lean. Big Moe, a protege of DJ Screw, died from a heart attack after abusing lean for years in 2007. That same year, another Texas rapper by the name of Pimp C also died of the drug. Rapper Fredo Santana, who frequently sang about the drug, died from a seizure in 2018 that was brought on by using Lean. Further, numerous athletes and other musicians have been arrested for possession of prescription cough syrup without having it prescribed to them personally.


If you are struggling with a dependency to Lean, help is available. Although this drug is addictive, it’s possible to break free from it with help and support. At Clear Sky Recovery, we are standing by to help you break free from your addictions and to find the root of the problems that led to them in the first place. Our facility in Cancun, Mexico is staffed with people who are experienced in addiction recovery services, and our innovative ibogaine treatment has helped many before you. We are standing by to answer any questions you have and we can’t wait to hear from you. Please contact us today.


How does Lean make you feel?

Lean can make you feel relaxation, sedation, and impaired motor skills.

Why do people drink Lean?

People drink Lean at parties mainly because it tastes good with mix-ins like gummy candies, and it helps them chill out.

When did the Lean drug become popular?

Lean became notably popular in the Southern United States hip-hop community in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

What are the effects of drinking Lean?

Lean consumption, particularly due to its codeine content, can lead to dangerous respiratory depression, characterized by slowed breathing and heart rate, significantly increasing the risk of fatal overdose. Mixing lean with alcohol or other drugs exacerbates these risks, making it highly perilous.

How dangerous is Lean?

Lean is dangerous because it can lead to serious health issues, including respiratory depression, overdose, addiction, and even death. The codeine in lean is an opioid, which can be highly addictive, and promethazine can cause sedation and impair motor functioning.