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Purple drank

Purple drank is a slang term for a recreational drug popular in the hip-hop community of the southern United States. Its main ingredient is prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine. Cough syrup is typically mixed with ingredients such as Sprite soft drink and pieces of Jolly Rancher candy. The purplish hue of purple drank comes from dyes in the cough syrup.

There are numerous slang terms for purple drank, including sizzurp, lean, syrup, drank, barre, purple jelly, and purple drank. Recently, the term has expanded to cover mixtures including over-the-counter cough syrup.


Houston, Texas, producer DJ Screw first popularized the concoction, which is widely attributed as a source of inspiration for the "chopped and screwed" style of hip hop music. Originally, the active ingredient of "syrup" was cough syrup containing promethazine and codeine. The concoction first gained popularity in the underground Houston rap scene and later spread to other southern states.

In June 2000, Three 6 Mafia's single "Sippin' on Some Syrup," featuring UGK brought the term "purple drank" to a nationwide audience. Three 6 Mafia's single "Rainbow Colors" featuring Lil' Flip pertains to the consumption of purple drank; the addition of a Jolly Rancher candy to a cup of purple drank creates a spectrum of colors, hence "rainbow colors."

In 2004, the University of Texas found that 8.3% of secondary school students in Texas had taken codeine syrup to get high. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports "busts" involving syrup across the Southern United States, particularly in Texas and Florida. Its use has spread to other parts of the United States and the world, including Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, United Kingdom, Israel, and Russia.

Active ingredients

The most popular type of purple drank is promethazine-codeine, a prescription cough syrup. The active ingredients are codeine, a narcotic, and the antihistamine medication promethazine, which is used in this particular mixture to counteract postnarcotic nausea. When taken in large quantities, both medications can lead to sedation and altered levels of consciousness.

Prescription cough syrups containing hydrocodone are also used to make drank, though they are less popular. Songs like "Sippin' on Some Syrup" by Three 6 Mafia refer to Tussionex, a yellow cough syrup containing extended-release hydrocodone and chlorpheniramine (another antihistamine). Other hydrocodone-containing syrups such as Histinex HC, Hycotuss, and Hycodan may also be used. Syrup can be made with over-the-counter cough syrups such as Robitussin DM, which contain dextromethorphan as the cough suppressant. Although dextromethorphan is used recreationally, it has dissociative effects as opposed to narcotic.

Promethazine-codeine contains 10 mg of codeine and 6.25 mg of promethazine per 5 mL. Users ingest roughly 120-250 mg of codeine with this dose. When hydrocodone is substituted, the dose can be overwhelming at higher common doses, leading to vomiting and other mild opiate overdose symptoms.

The brand of the promethazine-codeine most referred to by the southern rap movement was manufactured by Alpharma Inc. and is a dark brown bottle with a white and purple label. In late 2005 Alpharma was purchased by Actavis, which took over the bottling and manufacturing of all Alpharma medicinal liquids including the promethazine-codeine syrup. The bottle now sports a red and white label with the Actavis logo.

Mentions in music

In addition to its popularization in the music of DJ Screw and Three 6 Mafia, the mixture has been referenced in lyrics of other rappers. It is the subject of UGK's "Sippin and Spinnin" and "Purple Drank", as well as tracks by Big Moe, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, T.I., Lil' Flip, Lil' Wayne, Three Six Mafia, Beanie Sigel, Project Pat, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, Fat Pat, Frayser Boy, Z-Ro, Kanye West, Youngbloodz and Trae.

In a flow freestyle featuring Lil Keke, Paul Wall states that he is, "High as a kite on cloud nine, I'm leanin' tough and movin' slow. I'm fightin' sleep and dozin' off, sippin' this drank to cure my cough, I can't think my mind is blank, pardon me but I'm throwed off."

New Orleans rapper Lil' Wayne frequently mentions drinking purple drank. In the Duffle Bag Boy music video he can be seen holding a Styrofoam cup with "RIP DJ Screw" written on it. In the remix to "Throw Some D's" on his mixtape Da Drought 3 he claims "I'm not a rookie, I'm a pro..methazine fiend" as well as stating "You know what's in my Styrofoam...what? S-Y-R-UP." He also mentions the substance in the song DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over," saying "I like my Sprite Easter pink," and in the track "Barry Bonds" from Kanye West's Graduation album, "My drink is still pinker than the Easter Rabbit", overt references to the color of the beverage.

The substance is being mentioned in lyrics of other musical genres. Southern punk band Black Lips' song I Saw A Ghost (Lean) is about a trip on purple drank.

Notable deaths from use

Purple drank is confirmed or suspected to have caused the deaths of several prominent users. Respiratory depression is a potentially serious or fatal adverse drug reaction associated with the use of codeine. This depression is dose-related and is the mechanism for the potentially fatal consequences of overdose: respiratory or cardiac arrest.

DJ Screw, who popularized the codeine-based drink, died of a suspected codeine-alcohol overdose on November 15, 2000, several months after the video to Three 6 Mafia's single debuted.

Big Moe, a DJ Screw protegé whose albums City of Syrup and Purple World were based on the drink, died at age 33 on October 14 2007 after suffering a heart attack one week earlier that left him in a coma. There was speculation that purple drank may have contributed to his death.

Widely influential Port Arthur, Texas, rapper Chad Butler, AKA Pimp C member of rap group UGK, was found dead on December 4, 2007, at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, California. The Los Angeles County Coroner's office reported that the rapper's death was "due to promethazine/codeine effects and other unestablished factors." Ed Winter, assistant chief of the coroner's office, said the levels of the medication were elevated, but not enough to deem the death an overdose. However, Pimp C had a history of sleep apnea, a condition that causes one to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. "In tandem with that malady, the cough medication probably suppressed the artist's breathing long enough to bring on his death," Winter said.

Former No Limit recording artist Ryan Daoust who recorded the underground classics "Robbin' Da Drug Stoe" and "Chillin Wit My Grill In" was found dead on September 6th, 2008 of what was widely assumed to be another syrup related death.

Other notable incidents

In September 2006, Terrence Kiel, a San Diego Chargers player, was arrested during practice for the possession with intent to sell prescription cough syrup for use in making the drink.

In June 2008, publicly traded, Houston-based Innovative Beverage Group(Other OTC:IBGH.PK) released a legal version of Drank which contains no codeine, but claims to "Slow Your Roll" with a combination of herbal ingredients.


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