Cough syrup containing codeine has been used recreationally for decades, but as so-called sizzurp surges into the mainstream, more teens are experimenting with this dangerous substance than ever before. Fans of “cough syrup high,” which is sometimes also called lean or purple drank, often mix the medication with soda, hard candy, and/or alcohol in a white disposable cup. This substance gained notoriety in 2013 when pop star Justin Bieber was arrested for driving under the influence of lean, and rapper Lil Wayne frequently mentions purple drank in his rhymes.

The combination of codeine and alcohol creates an intoxicating sense of euphoria that lasts up to six hours, but can also result in respiratory depression, hallucinations, seizures, and loss of consciousness. Mixing alcohol with codeine cough syrup can be life-threatening. What’s more, in a survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, one in 10 high schoolers reported using cough syrup to get high over the past year. Parents who are concerned their teens may engage in cough syrup abuse should know the signs of this type of addiction.

Is Sizzurp Addictive?

Those who regularly use sizzurp are at significant risk for addiction to both codeine and alcohol. This substance causes mental and physical withdrawal effects that include restlessness, irritability, sweating, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, shakes, fever, chills, muscle cramps, and erratic mood changes. Individuals may also be unable to quit using lean without professional help.

If your child has developed an addiction to sizzurp, he or she will display:

  • The need to take more and more of the substance to create the desired effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of use
  • Inability to quit even when using sizzurp hurts his or her life, relationships, job, or education
  • Uncontrollable cravings

Since codeine is an opioid, maintenance medication may be required to safely discontinue use of codeine cough syrup. Effective addiction treatment also requires family support, behavioral therapy, life skills training, peer support, and other safety nets to help the person maintain sobriety and avoid relapse.

What are the Signs of Sizzurp Overdose?

Overdosing on sizzurp is a life-threatening medical emergency. Call 911 right away if your teen displays:

  • Weak pulse
  • Slow or labored breathing
  • Intestinal spasms
  • Blue-tinged lips or nails
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Clammy, chilled skin
  • Muscle spasms or twitches
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unusually high or low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Unexplained fatigue or drowsiness

What are the Long-Term Effects of Sizzurp Abuse?

Individuals who chronically ingest large doses of codeine cough syrup are at significant risk for permanent liver damage. Signs of this condition include yellow skin and eyes, fatigue, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Eventually, complete liver failure may result. People who are addicted to lean may also develop epilepsy and permanent brain damage, including psychosis, memory loss, cognitive difficulties, and changes in behavior and mood.

How Can I Detect Cough Syrup Abuse?

Teens are especially susceptible to sizzurp abuse because the ingredients are cheap and easy to obtain. This age group may also wrongly believe that because cough syrup is available over the counter, it cannot cause serious health problems or addiction.

Parents may notice empty cough syrup bottles and soiled Styrofoam cups in their child’s room. Also, be aware of general signs of drug use, which often include a sudden change in friends, a sudden loss of interest in school and activities he or she previously enjoyed, erratic sleep patterns, and mood changes and irritability.

Families who are struggling with the impact of addiction can seek help from Anthony Louis Center. Our treatment centers specialize in substance abuse treatment programs for adolescents, including both outpatient and residential options. We also provide walk-in drug screening and addiction assessment. If you’re concerned about your teen, get in touch today to seek effective treatment for substance abuse.

Image Credit: Shutterstock By Syda Productions