In early September 2017, rapper Lil Wayne was hospitalized after he suffered two seizures and fell unconscious in a hotel room in Chicago. He was released a few days later.

This hasn’t been the first time Lil Wayne experienced seizures and has been hospitalized. He claims that epilepsy, exhaustion, and a busy schedule prompted this latest crisis. Others are blaming it on the potent beverage lean. Even if Lil Wayne did not abuse the mixture (he has reportedly abused it in the past), the powerful nature of lean merits some discussion.

Also known by other names, including sizzurp, syrup, and purple drank, lean is a combination of soft drinks, candy, and promethazine syrup with codeine, a substance used to treat coughs, colds, and allergies. Since the syrup contains codeine, you need a doctor’s prescription to acquire and use it legally.

Also, codeine is a opioid, a powerful drug that can relieve pain but also cause addiction. Millions of people around the world have become hooked on codeine and other prescription opioids and illegal opiods such as heroin.

Whether it’s known by the name lean, purple drank, or sizzurp, lean has been a prominent beverage in the rap and hip community. Lil Wayne himself has recorded a song called “Just Lean” and remixed Bill Withers’s 1972 hit “Lean on Me” to mention lean.

Other artists have recorded songs about the substance. “Sippin’ Codeine” is a 1998 song by DJ Screw featuring Big Moe. DJ Screw died from an overdose from the codeine in purple drank as well as the effects of other drugs.

It looks as if DJ Screw’s untimely death didn’t serve as a cautionary tale or prompt other singers to seek help. Other artists have their own songs about lean/purple drank/sizzurp. Even an artist as huge as Jay-Z referred to “keepin’ lean up in my cup” in “Big Pimpin’,” a 1999 song he performed with UGK.

The hip hop group Three 6 Mafia, who won an Oscar for their song “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp,” also recorded the 2000 song “Sippin’ on Some Syrup.” The syrup in question was lean, a substance the group has mentioned in other songs. More recently, Lil Wayne recorded “Me and My Drank” in 2009, yet another song about lean.

Lean, then, is a prominent drink in popular culture, but a very dangerous one.

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