Lean: Slang for Getting High with Cough Syrup

If you have listened to popular music artists in the past decade, you’ve probably heard of one mixed concoction that goes by several names: Purple Drank, Dirty Sprite, Sizzurp and Lean. In fact, 33% of rap songs that reached the top ten of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 2017 mentioned the mixture. And many musicians, such as Future and Lil Wayne, are associated with lyrics and imagery of cough medicine abuse.

In recent years, lean has arguably become the most commonly-used slang term related to cough medicine abuse. The term “lean” refers to a mixture of prescription cough syrup containing codeine, soda, and sometimes hard candy. However, many people aren’t aware that “lean” technically contains prescription cough medicine and therefore may use the slang term more broadly to describe over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse as well.

It’s important for parents to be aware that lean’s association with famous people can influence more impressionable audiences to abuse cough medicine of various forms. They might think it looks cool or be curious about the feeling of euphoria.

As a parent, this can be terrifying, but there are things you can do to help prevent teen cough medicine abuse in your home and community:

  • Spread the word to other parents. Inform them of the fact that teens may use the term “lean” in reference to prescription cough medicine abuse or OTC cough medicine abuse.
  • If you hear your teen or their friends using the term “lean” or other slang terms for cough medicine abuse, know that your teen may be at risk for engaging in this type of behavior.
  • Talk with your teen about the dangers of abusing cough medicine to get high. Correct any misconceptions that OTC medicine abuse is a safer way to get high. Help your teen understand that cough medicine abuse of any kind is dangerous.

Keep in mind that slang terms for substance abuse are always evolving. Again, it’s scary, but being aware of the latest slang can be a tool when it comes to the prevention of this risky behavior. Learn other tips for preventing medicine abuse here.

Have you ever heard your teen or their friends use the term “lean"?

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