Lil Wayne has come forward this week with a video confession about abusing the substance Sizzurp. This rapper, like so many other young people, was influenced by the entertainment industry to first use the substance because it was cool. This concoction, although it is made out to be harmless, can actually be deadly if abused.
Sizzurp is made from codeine and promethazine-based cough syrup. Mixing the cough syrup with soda and dropping in a jolly rancher makes a concoction that produces an intoxicating high. The trend started in the southern United States, made popular by rappers in the 1990s and early 2000s. The drink, idealized by pop culture, is abused by teens throughout the country, many of whom do not know its risk. Cough syrup with codeine is available by a doctor’s prescription and, like other prescription drugs, kids often think they are safe because they are legal. But codeine can kill, as we’ve seen by the death of at least 2 hip hop artists. DJ Screw died in 2000 and Rapper Pimp C died in 2008, both from accidental codeine and promethazine overdoses.
The problem with a substance like Sizzurp is that it is glamorized by those in the public eye. Numerous rappers have songs about Sizzurp, also known as “Purple Drank” or “Lean”. They are open about their use of the substance to “slow their roll”, and this has greatly influenced young fans to try it. In 2004, the University of Texas found that 8.3% of secondary school students in Texas had taken codeine syrup to get high. (1)
Lil Wayne himself admitted that he used to drink Sizzurp because he grew up idolizing other rappers who were using it. “I started drinking it because I’m from the South,” Wayne tells viewers of his video. “I was also young and listening to Pimp C and he said, ‘We’re drinking that Lean.’ It made me want to drink that lean.” (2)
Unfortunately, other young people are doing the exact same thing. “Anytime a substance that can be so dangerous is popularized through music or our culture, it becomes something that we need to be very worried about,” says Sarah Pullen of the DEA. (3)
As for Lil Wayne, he claims he is over the stuff. In his confession video, taped by a friend and released earlier this week, Lil Wayne says he used to drink Sizzurp often. He relied on the concoction to help him deal with the pressures of being famous. In the video he tells fans he stopped using it a year ago, and that he’s “not sick anymore”.
These days, parents are having a hard time agreeing with the message that many singers and rappers are sending their kids. Parents should work on talking to their kids about the dangers of substances like Sizzurp, and help their teen find positive role models.