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Why Sizzurp Is Unsafe to Slurp

The "purple drank" that may have landed Lil' Wayne in the ER is far more dangerous than some think.

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Lil' Wayne and his purple drank. Photo via

By Sarah Beller

03/18/13

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Rapper Lil' Wayne is in the hospital after suffering seizures, and many think the cause is sizzurp, the "purple drank" made popular by several hip hop stars. The brew is made by combining prescription-strength cough syrup with drinks like Sprite or Mountain Dew and Jolly Rancher candy. It gets its purplish hue from dyes in the cough syrup, which contains the opiate codeine and the anti-histamine promethazine. Addiction expert and Caron Foundation vice president Dr. Harris Stratyner tells The Fix that what scares him most is that the "very dangerous concoction" is being geared toward kids, who don't realize it is hazardous. "Because Sprite or Mountain Dew and Jolly Rancher candy is in it, it's seen as innocent," he tells us. "They overlook the fact that codeine is an extremely strong opiate." Stratyner says side effects may include dehydration and seizures. In addition, promethazine is an antiemetic, which means it prevents you from vomiting, he explains: "If you drink poison and you don't have the ability to throw up, it can do a lot of harm."

Dr. Stratyner blames sizzurp's popularity on hip hop, saying: "Rap songs are sung about it, the kids think it's hip." And he's not wrong. Lil' Wayne is among many hip-hop artists who have showed lyrical love for the "Texas Tea" with lines like "syrup, syrup, syrup, haha yeah" and "Pardon the slur, that's the purple." And rapper Juicy J says he "gotta have that drank" because it's "nothing like that yella yella that will have you itchin maybe" (a reference to "The Heroin Scratch"—a side-effect of barbiturates). But in spite of the perception that sizzurp may be less risky than other "harder" drugs, it is suspected to have caused the deaths of several prominent users in the hip-hop community, including DJ ScrewBig Moe and Pimp C. Three 6 Mafia rapper DJ Paul—famous for his song "Sippin' on Some Syrup"—even issued a warning about the drink after pop star Justin Bieber was photographed surrounded by cups of codeine last month. "I can't say don't do [sizzurp] because I did my rounds with it," said Paul, "But I stay away from it these days because I had a lot of friends that passed away from it. It's dangerous if you do too much of it."

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