It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to find a thrill in drinking a concoction of prescription-strength cough syrup mixed with soda pop. However, this combination, known socially as “sizzurp” or “purple drank,” originally created in the 60s, has resurged in popularity due to its promotion by rap music artists. It is one of the trendy ways to get “high” used by the edgy, younger population.
Containing codeine and promethazine, the cough syrup is used in doses much higher than medically recommended in the drink and is mixed with a high-caffeine soda such as Mountain Dew or Sprite. By throwing a piece of Jolly Rancher hard candy into the liquid for extra sweetness, the concoction takes on the taste of candy.
The mixture produces mild euphoric side effects along with motor-skill impairment, lethargy, drowsiness, and a feeling of disassociation from the rest of one’s body.
‘Purple drank’ has soared in popularity, authorities say, thanks to the hip-hop community in Texas. Users have said the sweet taste stays on the tongue for hours and it is often consumed along with alcohol and/or drugs. Numerous rap music artists favor the mind-altering drink and some have been hospitalized after ingesting it.
Doctors say the two drugs in the cough syrup have different roles. The codeine acts as a pain reliever and respiratory depressant and the promethazine is a depressant of the central nervous system, with sedative effects. Taken in the correct prescribe dose by itself, the cough syrup is safe for its intended patient, but in excess can cause a person to stop breathing. Adding alcohol and other drugs to the mix present even more problems and can create a lethal cocktail that leads to seizures and cardiac complications.
In the 60s, the original version of the drink emerged in Houston, Texas with Blues artists taking Robitussin cough syrup and cutting it with beer. Wine coolers were also used as a mixer with the cough syrup. It wasn’t until the 80s that the soda and Jolly Ranchers candies came into the concoction. The Jolly Ranchers were fancied as an add-in because they added a spectrum of color as well.
A rap music artist using the moniker “DJ Screw” included references to the purple drink in his music and soon the message began to spread. Some sources said the drink led to the rapper’s early death. However, more rap artists were willing to carry the popularity of the drink forward and several of those have died at young ages.
As with many drugs that contain an opiate, the drink can lead to addiction and lead to symptoms of withdrawal.
Concern remains high over the use of this drink in the young population, since it has been greatly glamorized by music artists in songs and videos.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it is estimated that one in 10 teens uses cough syrup or cold medicine in some form to get “high.”