The Side Effects and Dangers of Drinking Lean

side effects and dangers of drinking lean

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “In 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year.”[1]

Opioid abuse is a national health problem in the United States. Typically, people think of prescription pills like oxycodone or illicit drugs like heroin when they imagine opioid addiction. However, there are many forms of opioids that people abuse.

A cough syrup that contains the opioid codeine and an antihistamine known as promethazine is commonly mixed with soda to create a drink called “lean”. Many teenagers and young adults abuse lean, as it gained popularity through rap music and pop culture. Lean is habit-forming and extremely addictive because it contains codeine, an opioid that is derived from the poppy plant.

Not only can drinking lean lead to addiction, but long-term abuse of this substance can lead to adverse health reactions. Being aware of the dangers of drinking lean could prevent you from experiencing the consequences of the long-term abuse of this drug.

What is Lean?

Lean is a drink that contains cough syrup made of codeine and promethazine. People mix this cough syrup with soda, hard candy, and occasionally alcohol. This substance got its name because the effects of drinking it can cause people to “lean” on something to prevent themselves from falling over. It is also sometimes called “purple drank” or “purple drink” because the drink often takes on a purple color.

While codeine is one of the weaker opioid drugs, it is still highly addictive and dangerous to abuse. People can develop an addiction to lean in a very short time due to the effects that codeine has on the central nervous system (CNS) of the brain.

Also referred to as purple drank, sizzurp, or dirty sprite, lean became popular in the early ’90s because rappers began featuring the substance in their songs. Because lean is not a packaged and sold product, lean may contain a wide variety of substances, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact effects and dangers of the drug.

Effects of Drinking Lean

Codeine-promethazine cough syrup causes people to become relaxed and drowsy, often leading them to lean or slouch to the side when they are high on the substance, hence the nickname, “lean.” Codeine is an opioid drug that causes similar effects on the central nervous system as oxycodone, morphine, and heroin.

After you drink lean, the effects will begin to occur 30 to 45 minutes later. Some people add more cough syrup to their drinks to experience the effects faster, which can lead to life-threatening overdoses. The effects of lean typically peak within an hour of drinking the substance and last for up to 6 hours.

The short-term effects of drinking lean include:

  • Euphoria
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depressed breathing
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired vision

Drinking lean can also lead to seizures when abused in excess. Additionally, consuming large amounts of lean in a short period can cause you to experience respiratory depression or hallucinations, potentially resulting in life-threatening overdoses.

Dangers Associated With Lean Abuse

Codeine is available by prescription and is considered to be a “weak” opioid. Unfortunately, because it is available via prescription, some people believe that drinking lean is not dangerous. The truth is, drinking lean can lead to an array of adverse health complications as well as a substance use disorder.

Some of the long-term dangers of drinking lean include:

  • Memory loss
  • Cognitive decline
  • Dental decay
  • Weight gain
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Impaired vision
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Another danger of abusing this cough syrup is the risk of overdose. Oftentimes, teenagers and young adults drink lean without knowing how much codeine they are consuming, causing them to ingest too much at once and putting themselves at risk of a life-threatening overdose.

The symptoms of a codeine overdose include:[2]

  • Bluish fingernails and lips
  • Breathing problems, such as slow and labored breathing, shallow breathing, no breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness, fatigue, weakness
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness, coma
  • Low blood pressure, weak pulse
  • Muscle twitches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tiny pupils
  • Spasms of the stomach and intestines

It is important to note that mixing alcohol into codeine cough syrup greatly increases your chances of overdose. Even just adding a small amount of alcohol into your lean can lead to respiratory depression, which reduces the flow of oxygen to your brain and causes organ damage, coma, or death. Mixing lean with any other central nervous system (CNS) depressant can cause the same effects.

Finding Help for Lean Abuse and Addiction

While lean is a commonly abused drug among celebrities, musicians, and young adults, this substance is extremely addictive. The long-term abuse of lean could lead to an array of health consequences, including tooth decay, seizures, hallucinations, and life-threatening overdoses. If you or a loved one suffer from lean or codeine addiction, help is available.

At Moving Mountains Recovery Center, we take our client’s health seriously by providing highly individualized treatment plans, evidence-based behavioral therapies, and various forms of community support. Contact us today for more information on our opioid addiction treatment program in New Jersey.


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