Lean Drug: How is it Made and What are the Dangers?

what is in lean
What is Lean

In the United States, opioid-derivative drug abuse has become a significant public health crisis. More people have died due to opioid overdoses than during the Vietnam War. When most people think of opioid addiction, they envision someone abusing prescription pills, Fentanyl patches, or even heroin. However, lean, a codeine-laced drink, is responsible for numerous overdose deaths and addictions.

Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, blues musicians in the American South invented today’s version of lean by combining Robitussin and beer. Rappers in the Houston area began mixing codeine with soda and hard candy to make lean in the 1980s. 

The drink gained popularity in the music industry and has been glorified in numerous songs and rap lyrics. Lean has killed several musicians and rappers around the world. This article will run you through everything you should know about lean.

What is in Lean?

Lean is an illegal substance made with codeine that contains cough syrup, soda, hard candy, alcohol, and the antihistamine Promethazine. Codeine, like morphine, is derived from the opium poppy plant and is one of the weaker opioids. It is, however, highly addictive and potentially harmful to the body. Because opioids short-circuit the brain’s reward response system, an individual can develop a lean addiction in a relatively short period.

Lean, also known as Purple Drank, Sizzurp, Dirty Sprite, and other names, rose to prominence in the late 1990s when rappers and other artists referenced the drink in their music. Because it is not a packaged and sold product, the composition and amount of the various components vary greatly, making it challenging to study and fully comprehend all of the effects. 

However, someone who is using lean can be treated. For more information on treatment options, contact a treatment provider here.

Is Lean a Drug?

Lean comprises cough medicine containing codeine, a Schedule II controlled substance. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration considers Schedule II controlled substances dangerous due to their high potential for abuse and dependence. 

Codeine-containing medications are frequently monitored and restricted to those with a prescription as a substance with a high potential for abuse. Other cough syrups commonly found in lean are over-the-counter medications that are often restricted to those over 18.

When misused, the effects of codeine can be dangerous and life-threatening. Because codeine is classified as an opioid, physical side effects can occur if the drug is abused. 

Two more common symptoms are a low heart rate and slower breathing, which can be especially dangerous for people taking certain medications or with unknown heart conditions. Those who use large amounts of codeine may overdose, causing their heart to stop. When codeine is combined with alcohol or other drugs, the risk of a fatal overdose or severe side effects increases.

What Does It Do?

Lean is named after its effect on those who consume it, who tend to slouch or lean to one side as they consume more of the substance. Codeine’s effects are similar to those of other addictive opioids (such as oxycodone and heroin). 

Its effects typically take effect within 30 to 45 minutes, though different amounts of codeine in lean (up to 25 times the recommended dose) can shorten onset times. Peak effects occur one to two hours after ingestion and last approximately four to six hours.

Despite its widespread cultural adoration, drinking lean has several potential side effects and adverse outcomes:

  • Dizziness
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing
  • Constipation
  • Dental decays
  • Gaining weight
  • Infections of the urinary tract
  • Vision impairment
  • Memory lapses
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures (in at-risk individuals)

The Dangers of Lean

Many users are unaware of the dangers of drinking codeine. Abusing any substance harms one’s health, but opioids are especially dangerous due to the high risk of tolerance and drug addiction.

As the body’s tolerance to lean grows, it produces less and less of its natural opioids until it entirely depends on the foreign substance. This addiction drives the individual to consume more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect or, in most cases, simply to feel normal.

Opioid abuse, can result in life-threatening health complications and even fatal overdose. When too much lean is consumed, the brain is flooded with opioid molecules, rendering it unable to regulate its response or mitigate its effect.

How is Lean Made

Purple drank or lean is made by combining codeine, cough syrup, soft drinks, energy drinks, and sometimes fruity sweets. The concern is that while lean is simple to prepare, it is dangerous to consume. It can even be fatal in some cases.

is lean illegal
How is Lean Made

Cases of “Robotripping”

In some parts of the United States, people are replacing codeine-based cough syrup with over-the-counter cough syrup containing dextromethorphan (DXM). DXM, found in over 120 cold medications, is a cough suppressant with psychoactive properties that, when abused, can cause mild to severe hallucinogenic effects. 

DXM-soda-candy consumption is referred to as “robotripping” because, unlike opioids, which bind to pain receptors, DXM interacts with neurotransmitters that respond to hallucinogens such as ketamine or PCP. Because they cause intense “out of body” hallucinations, these substances are classified as dissociative.

Some of robotripping’s potential consequences include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • A rise in blood pressure
  • Coordination problems
  • Numbness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory lapses
  • Seizures
  • Reduced oxygen supply to the brain (in rare cases)

Is It Illegal?

It is not considered an illegal substance in and of itself, but there are some circumstances surrounding its use. Limiting the number of medicines purchased in a given period, as well as age restrictions, can be guidelines for purchasing codeine-containing medications. It is illegal to obtain cough suppressants or medications without a prescription (when required) or using a fake ID. 

Any attempt to avoid the laws governing the purchase of codeine or cough suppressants is prohibited. Because of the dangers of codeine abuse, it is illegal to distribute or manufacture products containing the substance. This includes manufacturing lean for distribution or sale.

Treatment for Lean Addiction

Quitting Lean or any other opioids can be challenging for someone addicted to them. Because of their addictive nature, opioids are especially difficult to stop using on your own. Detox is the first step in treating a lean addiction. 

Opioid treatment medications may be prescribed to alleviate painful withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Detoxification may also reveal co-occurring diseases or disorders (such as hepatitis or nerve damage). As a result, medically supervised detox is critical to a safe and successful addiction recovery.


The use of lean can be hazardous. Some of the dangers include the potential for overdose and the possibility of developing an addiction. The lean drug can also have serious side effects, such as seizures, hallucinations, and heart problems. If you or someone you know is using lean, getting help as soon as possible is essential.