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Weed and Syrup Till I die: The Rising Problem with Codeine, Drank, Lean or “Syrup”

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Sizzurp.  Purple Drank.  Syrup.  Whatever you decide to call it, codeine is becoming a serious problem within the hip-hop community.  And after Lil Wayne’s recent hospitalization that is rumored to have been attributed to his consumption of the drug, it’s become a bigger presence in our media.  So, what’s the deal with codeine?

The popularity of codeine rose in Houston, Texas and was popularized by Houston producer, DJ Screw.  The concoction was said to have been popular in the early 60s, but wasn’t popularized until the 1990s.  June of 2000 brought the term “purple drank” as a euphemism for codeine to the general public with Three 6 Mafia’s singles “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” and “Rainbow Colors”.  It wasn’t long though before things took a negative turn.

DJ Screw, who popularized the consumption of syrup died just a few short months after the music video for “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” was released.  His death was a result of a codeine-promethazine-alcohol overdose.  Big Moe, another rapper who popularized the use of codeine with albums named City of Syrup and Purple World died in 2007 after suffering a heart attack that was most likely the result of codeine consumption.

As it is intended to be taken as a cough suppressant, what makes codeine dangerous is the severe risk of respiratory depression that accompanies the intake of syrup without respiratory problems.  Respiratory depression leads to a decreased concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood.  As a result, oxygen levels are also decreased and can lead to blackouts and death in extreme cases.

But even with the deaths of some of the biggest players in the Syrup world and increased awareness of the effects of taking codeine, Syrup is still a popular product among hip-hop artists, the most recent being Lil Wayne.  Lil Wayne’s lyrics frequently reference the consumption of syrup. On the song “Duaffle Bag Boy,” Lil Wayne boldly states “”weed and syrup till I die,” Maybe after his recent hospitalization and a rising awareness in the hip-hop community, codeine use will eventually die down, but until then it seems it will continue to remain a poignant part of hip-hop history.

Last week, Southern rapper Souljah Boy posted pictures of codeine and marijuana on his Instagram which led to backlash from his young fans. It seems like Lil Wayne’s near death experience has let the world know that the too much “drank” in the cup can be deadly..

Mackenzie is an Alabama native attending NYU and studying Journalism and Dramatic Literature. She hopes to one day live in London and write for the BBC.