Side Effects of Sizzurp or Lean Cough Syrup Drink

Sizzurp: A Dangerous Teenage Drink

If you haven’t heard of “sizzurp,” your teen most likely has. It’s also referred to as “purple drank,” “syrup,” or “lean” – as in it will make you lean over.

While the drink has been around for a while, it has gained popularity in the last year or so. This can likely be attributed to the glamorization of it in songs, rap videos, and postings on social media sites.

So what exactly is “sizzurp?” It is a drink which is popular with the teen crowd and consumed at parties to get high. While “sizzurp” may sound and look innocent, it is anything but. This dangerous drink contains a potentially fatal concoction of: prescription cough syrup containing promethazine with codeine, a mixing agent (typically a fruit-flavored soda), and a piece of candy dropped in for flavoring and color.

The drink is particularly concerning for a couple of reasons. The sheer sweetness of the drink masks the dangerous drugs in it, which might encourage one to consume more. And drinking large quantities of “sizzurp” could lead to an overdose of codeine and promethazine.

Codeine is an opiate and is classified as a narcotic controlled substance. It is in the same family of drugs as morphine and it has the potential to be addictive. It is used for pain relief and cough suppressing properties.

Promethazine has sedative properties and is prescribed to help with nausea, vomiting, motion sickness, and pain. When used recreationally, promethazine can slow down the central nervous and respiratory systems, affect the heart, and cause seizures.

However, when both promethazine and codeine are used together, the mixture can cause significant central nervous system and respiratory depression, stop the heart and lungs from working, and is potentially fatal.

So what can parents do about it? While prescription drug abuse is an on-going and pervasive problem, the danger of having it in a tasty formulation raises concern for parents and health care professionals alike.

Armed with the ways in which teens are referring to it, we recommend talking to your child or teen about “sizzurp.” Help your teen understand just how dangerous it is, by explaining the addictive and potentially fatal properties in it. And give your teen some examples of ways to “just say no” at parties.

As always, if you have questions about “sizzurp” or any other drug-related questions, please do not hesitate to call Cincinnati Children’s Drug and Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are here 24/7 to help you.

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Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

About the Author: Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

Sheila Goertemoeller PharmD, DABAT, ICPS is a pharmacist and clinical toxicologist with 22 years of experience at the Drug and Poison Information Center Hotline at Cincinnati Children’s.

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  1. Ivy February 05, 22:14
    Great job Sheila! It is so scary for kids growing up today and for our future. They could think they are drinking kool-aid and it could be sizzurp. Parents need to really wake up and think before they allow children, teens, spouses to parties, sleepovers, or any event. Life is challenging enough with all the other stressors. Pray.
  2. T. T. February 06, 21:12
    My 17 yo son OD'ed on this a few weeks ago--he also smoked mj. His mental state was altered for 4 days.
  3. Eric February 26, 10:16
    "sizzurp"? that's a novelty, joke drug. pay less attention to what's on MTV and more to what's actually happening in Greater Cincinnati. learn the word "30s." your kids know what the real opiates are; you should too. codeine has a relatively low abuse potential -- though can make for quite the gateway drug -- and promethazine is just an antihistamine with effects comparable to benadryl.
    • Kate Setter
      Kate Setter March 03, 15:34
      Hi Eric - Opiate abuse is absolutely a problem and yes, parents should be aware of that as well, but that doesn't mean that sizzurp isn't still potentially dangerous, especially for someone who may unsuspectingly consume it.