The Crazy, Hazy History of the Purple Drank


It all started gaining momentum around 1990 and spilled over into the 2000s like a rainbow-colored waterfall. Many credit the “lean” explosion to latter day gangsta rappers like Lil Wayne who have unabashedly swigged the “sizzurp” on stage and at photo ops.

But the so-called purple drank precedes the chopped and screwed rap movement by several decades. Granted, the first mention of “that dirty Sprite” came in the 90’s when DJ Screw referenced it in his wildly popular mixtapes, but lean had already been around since the Sixties when authors and other creative types combined promethazine and codeine for the purposes of unlocking the full potential of their imaginations.

Like Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary before them, these funky fellas decided they needed to open the doors of perception a bit wider and, lo, the lean was born!

Houston-based writer Lance Scott Walker is believed to be the pioneer of this curious blend which actually evolved over time. The first formulation was Robitussin and beer, but as more and more alcoholic beverages were brought to market, the combinations changed.

When wine coolers hit the scene, the formulation changed once again. And then rap happened. Houston blues musicians began adopting the hip-hop lifestyle and the drank became a mainstay at hip-hop gatherings and a sort of emblem of the hip-hop culture.

As time went on, the chief ingredients became promethazine and codeine. Which is interesting when one considers the chemical structure of the initial formulation. Robitussin was likely implemented along with alcohol due to the presence of DXM (Dextromethorphan), a powerful psychoactive drug contained in most cold and cough syrups.

Large quantities of dextromethorphan result in a euphoric experience not dissimilar to that of MDMA. Promethazine, on the other hand, is an antihistamine and a neuroleptic that is often paired with narcotics to treat pain.

Can you get high off of promethazine? While promethazine can produce mild euphoria, it is not known to be as powerful as DXM which is probably why it is mixed with codeine.

Why do people drink codeine? Because, when combined with cough syrups, it acts as a heavy downer, yielding euphoria and symptoms of sedation.

It is unclear exactly who came up with the combination, but it first picked up steam in the Houston area in the 1990s with users mixing it into soft drinks in Styrofoam cups and downing it at parties. The nickname “purple drank” stuck because of the purple hue from dyes in the cough syrup.

When H-Town artists adapted the promethazine/codeine combo in the late-Nineties, they opened a can of worms that is still a problem to this day. Even though these are prescription medications, many users obtain them with relative ease.

Modern recording artists have even made the drank more attractive to a youth audience by combining promethazine and codeine with Sprite and Jolly Rancher candies to produce a rainbow of color in their sizzurp.

So it should come as no surprise that kids caved to the lean crave as soon as it penetrated pop culture. A 2004 report by the University of Texas found that 8.3% of secondary school students in the area had taken codeine cough syrup to recreationally.

Other combinations have also been introduced to achieve different colors of sizzurp. Those looking for “yellow drank” combine XR Hydrocodone and Atropine, and for those looking for “that Easter-pink,” there’s Codeine in conjunction with Guafenesin.

What most people don’t realize about lean is that these are anti-psychotic meds that act as Central Nervous System depressants and, when taken in tandem and in larger than recommended dosages, they can cause paranoia and other detrimental effects. As a matter of fact, Lil Wayne’s notorious seizures are believed to be the consequence of lean abuse.

And this is to say nothing of the very public scandal involving sports star JaMarcus Russell after he bungled a game and was subsequently bagged for illegal possession of a codeine-based cough syrup.

So while songs like 3 Six Mafia’s “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” might make the promethazine-codeine drank seem attractive, one needs only to look so far as Lil C’s overdose or Lil Wayne’s open admission that kicking the lean habit “ain’t easy” to see that the mainstream sizzurp mixture is mad dangerous.

Pimp C isn’t the only one to be felled by this ferocious mixture. Rapper Big Moe died at the tender age of 33 from a sizzurp-related heart attack while DJ Screw perished from a promethazine-codeine-alcohol overdose.

The serious and sometimes fatal side effects of this concoction can include respiratory depression, NMS (Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome), confusion, swelling, fever, invasive thoughts, sweating and irregular heartbeat.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the bizarre history of this hip-hop staple, it’s time to look to the Future and the answer is clear—Da Sizz is the way of Tomorrow, the drizzle that gets you sizzled but not fried.

Our Purple Drank Sizzurp is a proprietary blend that gives you all the wonderful waves of euphoria associated with traditional lean with none of the drawbacks. Da Sizz consists of a unique formula that simply cannot be beat, one that will have you marching to the beat of your own drum and in “da throe” without the throes of promethazine and codeine.

Each of our ingredients are all natural and organic, providing the user enhanced perception with 100% purity. So enough about da hizztory, let’s look forward and gaze deeper…deep into Da Sizz!