Almost everybody comes down with a little cold from time to time. Sometimes it comes with a persistent hacking cough that rattles an already sore throat with sharp pain.
This particular symptom, also associated with respiratory maladies such as laryngitis or pneumonia, is a reason why doctors may prescribe a more potent form of cough syrup. This contains many of the active ingredients found in over-the-counter cough syrups as well as a more powerful pain-killing drug, the opioid codeine.
When used as intended, single doses of codeine cough syrup spread out over the course of the prescription’s duration can help patients recover from a severe cough with less pain and more rest than they otherwise would. When used in intentionally large doses, it induces a kind of euphoric stupor and can also lead to opioid addiction, overdose, adverse health effects and even premature death.
This happens more often than you may think.
Why haven’t I heard more about codeine cough syrup abuse?
It’s an issue of naming.
The most popular ways to abuse prescription codeine cough syrup in such a fashion is as an ingredient in a concoction known by a series of street name pseudonyms, such as:
- Lean or “Lean Drink” after the physical effect it has on those who ingest it
- Syrup or “Sizzurp” for the codeine cough syrup ingredient
- Purple Drank, “Drank” or “Purp” named for the color when it was fully mixed
- Occasionally, “Texas Tea” when used in the context of the prominent use of this substance within the Houston hip-hop scene, which initially popularized it
What’s in Lean?
The illicit concoction known as “Lean” includes codeine cough syrup that is intended for prescription use, as well as diluting agents intended to slow the rate of ingestion (“sipping” is often referred to as the preferred pace as a tacit acknowledgment of its potency and potential danger) and mask the otherwise distasteful flavor of the cough syrup.
What are the symptoms of Lean use?
Lean abuse can result in codeine addiction. Codeine, an opioid that depresses the central nervous system, alters brain structures and impacts the brain’s reward system. This results in increased tolerance and higher consumption, leading to codeine addiction.
The adverse effects of drinking Lean include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Slowed respiratory rate
- Memory loss
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Dental decay
- Weight gain
- Muscle twitching
Unfortunately, Lean remains a popular beverage among teens and young adults. Young people tend to combine the use of Lean with other substances, such as marijuana or alcohol, to intensify the effects of the high. At high doses, Lean can slow the central nervous system to the point where the heart and lungs will stop functioning, causing death, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Considering recovery for a Lean addiction
Knowing how to stop drinking codeine-infused Lean safely is essential when deciding to enter recovery. There is a risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms if the codeine is abruptly discontinued. For this reason, the withdrawal process should be closely monitored and managed by a medically trained provider. The provider can create a tapering schedule that helps ease the individual off the codeine safely.
To overcome a codeine use disorder, it is necessary for the individual to make fundamental changes in how they respond to cravings, triggers, and stressors. Cognitive behavioral therapy can teach the individual how to change thought distortions, which can lead to healthy behavioral responses. A comprehensive treatment program provides the support and education so essential to achieving a sustained recovery.