Monday, August 12, 2013

Ulster Prevention Council Blog 8-12-13: Purple Drank

I have two young adults at home and they are almost always in charge of the music selection in the car. Although they listen to a wide variety of genres I confess that just like my own parents, much of the time I can't decipher the words. Sometimes when I can, I don't understand the meaning behind the words. To their dismay, I usually sing along anyway.
Today I've been doing some research into current drug trends, and as I wandered around the internet I began to look at song lyrics about drug use written by some well known artists.  Of course there have been plenty of drug references in lyrics for decades.  My thought about these particular songs, though, is that they are contributing to the spread of a dangerous regional drug trend that might otherwise have been contained: Purple Drank.
Mixing soda, prescription cough syrup and candy, often Jolly Ranchers, with crushed ice in a white styrofoam cup to make "Purple Drank" started in Houston, Texas, now known as the “City of Syrup”. Drinking it makes you "lean"- unsteady on your feet. While use dates back several decades, Purple Drank has recently gone mainstream in tracks by Eminem, Paul Wall, Kanye West, Ludacris, 2 Chainz, Drake, Nicki Manaj and scores of others.
Let's take a look at Lil' Wayne's song Me and My Drank. He references codeine (a narcotic), promethazine (an antihistamine) and Sprite as ingredients that he has in his cup in the studio. Lil' Wayne's lyrics acknowledge several artists who have died due to using Purple Drank including Big Moe, Pimp C, and DJ Screw.  Here are some lyrics from the song:

[Short Dawg:]
I usually don't do this but...
Yea T you gotta feel me
Sippin on some drink the color purple like silly
Really they say I should chill before it kills me
But so will a car crash or a nine milli
And I aint even mention cigarettes or airplanes
So grab a sprite heres a pint we can share Wayne
Yea Mayne...tastes so sweet and I aint gonna have a seat
Cuz I don't wanna fall asleep
So just pour it in my drink and ima sip until I lean hard
Drink got me moving slower than a retard
So press record and hear these hot raps
Im in the booth cup on me like a jock-strap
And I will not nap until the bottles empty
Then I pour a little more for past Screw and Pimp C
And I would stop but believe it I cant
So till Short is gone its just me and my drink
Up in the studio me and my drank, me and my drank, me and my drank
Uh uh Up in the studio me and my drank, me and my drank, me me and my drank

On March 15, 2013, it was reported that Wayne had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in Los Angeles after being discovered shaking uncontrollably and unconscious. Doctors found a high amount of codeine in his system and his stomach had to be pumped three times. He was released from the hospital three days later.
Two NFL players have been arrested for possessing codeine based syrups without a prescription, and Terrence Kiel, a San Diego Chargers player, was arrested during practice for possession with intent to sell prescription cough syrup for use in making the drink.
Several legal commercial products loosely based on "purple drank" are marketed in the United States including "Drank", "Purple Stuff", "Sippin Syrup", and "Lean".

What's so bad about Purple Drank? Codeine can make people feel a sense of euphoria, but can also cause hypoventilation, a potentially fatal inability to breathe properly. Abuse of codeine can lead to physical dependence and significant withdrawal symptoms. Promethazine is an antihistamine that is typically used to fight nausea and to induce sedation. In low doses, promethazine can enhance the effects of codeine, causing more euphoric feelings than codeine alone. However, high doses of promethazine can also cause potentially deadly central nervous system depression and hypoventilation, extreme weakness and drowsiness. Using these substances at higher amounts than those prescribed for legitimate medical purposes can be very dangerous. Add alcohol or other substances to the mix, and they are even more dangerous.
So what does this mean for the Hudson Valley?  Purple Drank is now part of pop culture, and simple instructions for mixing it are as close as the internet. Adolescents are likely to be curious about it and perhaps give it a try. Let's ask them if they've heard of it, what they think about it, and if they know anyone who has tried it. Adolescents often experience danger as exciting rather than as a deterrent to experimenting. If unable to procure prescription syrup, youth are likely to try mixing other syrups with soda, including over the counter cough and cold syrups that are also dangerous when abused. So, when remembering to lock up your meds, include any liquid medications, and dispose of unused prescription and over the counter syrups.

Cheryl DePaolo
Director of Ulster Prevention Council

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