Is Drinking Cough Syrup Dangerous?

A popular trend in today's youth culture, is drinking cough syrup to get drunk or get high. But many teens today may not realize just how dangerous it is to be purposely drinking cough syrup to feel it's effects or get drunk. They assume that because it's a manufactured product and sold over-the-counter or by prescription, that it must be safer than street drugs such as crack and crystal meth. They may not even realize how easy it is for a person to o.d. and die from this type of liquid. In the old days, many cough syrups contained alcohol. But these days it's pretty rare to find any brands that still use alcohol in their ingredients. But it's the other ingredients listed on the bottle that cause people to feel similar effects to alcohol. These ingredients can be very dangerous when they are drank in large doses or otherwise abused. But they can also be deadly if a person is repeatedly using them, or if they are not prescribed the prescription-brand cough syrups and are still using them. The ingredients found in most cough suppressants are especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol, even a little. But many young people are still taking that risk every day in the United States as well as other countries, without even realizing that it can kill you. But where did this trend start, and why is it growing so quickly in popularity these days?

When it comes to free publicity, cough syrup manufacturers definitely have today's rappers to thank. This isn't a new phenomenon, as the trend has been popular amongst teenagers for at least 30 years now. However, it's only become a popular staple in the current Hip Hop culture within the past 10 years, and that has definitely had a tremendous impact in terms of demand and increasing popularity. Since then, there's been many famous rappers from Eminem to Lil Wayne who have mentioned it in their lyrics and music. They've given it all kinds of catchy names, such as purple drank and sizzurp. They've featured it in music videos and glorified it as a fun way to get drunk or high. It's even more appealing to kids because it's often mixed with sweet things that kids love, such as soda and candy. There's all different types of homemade recipes that people have tried to make with cough syrup over the years, and for every mixture or concoction, there's a catchy name to attract kids or make it sound cool. When mixed with soda, such as sprite, they call it "Lean". When it's mixed with a candy, such as having jolly ranchers thrown into it, it becomes a swirl of colors and is referred to as "Rainbow Drink". The first person in the Hip Hop community who originally started drinking it and making it popular was DJ Screw of Houston, Texas. Ironically, the cough syrup he loved so much, like most dangerous drugs, killed him. He died from an overdose of codeine, which is one of the main ingredients in purple drank. The other main ingredient is promethazine, or prometh for short, which can also be fatal in large doses or from repeated use. Both of these ingredients can cause respiratory failure as well as depression of the central nervous system if a person overdoses from them. They can also both cause heart attacks and cardiac arrest. The coroner concluded that DJ Screw's death was due to respiratory depression caused by acute codeine intoxication. So he most likely died after passing out and being unable to breath, which is not a very nice way to go.

The same year DJ Screw died, the group Three 6 Mafia released a song titled "Sippin On Some Syrup", which is also known as "Sippin on Some Sizzurp". The song was a successful hit for the group and it also helped boost the cough syrup trend in Hip Hop to the popularity we are seeing today. But the song wasn't about the purple version of prescription cough syrup or "Purple Drank". It was mostly about another type that is yellow or orange colored and contains hydrocodone instead of codeine. This type is usually sold under the brand name of Tussionex. The music video for the song features sexy women clad in bikinis on the beach with baby bottles in their hands that are filled with the yellowish orange liquid. This type, like all other types, can be fatal when a person overdoses or continues to abuse it in small amounts on a regular and long-term basis. Many teens have died over the years from both the codeine and hydrocodone versions. Amazingly, that song was released in 2000, but it took the FDA 8 years before they finally issued warnings to doctors about people abusing Tussionex. One of the rappers featured in the Three 6 Mafia song "Sippin On Some Syrup" was legendary southern rapper Pimp C, who was one-half of the group UGK, along with his partner Bun B. Not surprisingly, Pimp C died in his sleep in December of 2007 from a codeine overdose, which the coroner stated was due to prescription cough syrup ingestion. Pimp C and DJ Screw were both habitual users of these drinks, so it's very possible that they had addictions to it as well, since both codeine and hydrocodone can cause addiction and create addicts within a few days of using them.

While prescribed cough syrup is the medicine of choice for those looking to abuse these types of medicines, many have even resorted to abusing the over-the-counter types as well. The OTC brands, such as Robitussin DM and Coricidin contain a different main ingredient instead of codeine, which is dextromethorphan. The act of abusing this ingredient has been reffered to as DXMing, Dexing, or Robotripping, and it can be found in both the liquid and pill/geltab forms. Dextraomethorphan acts completely differently than narcotics like codeine and hydrocodone, and majority of people who have abused it have stated that it can be a very unpleasant experience and they probably wouldn't want to try it again. In large quantities, it can produce hallucinations and out-of-body experiences, to where people may not have control of their bodies or be aware of what they are doing. Many people who have only tried it once have died from overdosing from the dextromethorphan, and sometimes even the other ingredients found in the over-the-counter brands. Some of those ingredients, such as acetaminophen, can also cause damage to the organs after repeated use, and cause the kidneys to eventually fail. Sorbitol is commonly found in many OTC brands, and as you may already know, it's a powerful laxative that can cause extreme diarrhea when taken in large doses. Repeated use of dextromethorphan can cause serious life-altering side effects as well, such as permanent psychosis, which means a person can basically become irreversibly psychotic and remain out of touch with reality. On top of all these problems, both over the counter and prescription cough syrups can cause a decreased sex drive and sleeping problems weeks after use when used repeatedly. But the problem is, many young people are not aware of all these dangers and risks before they decide to try getting drunk or high for the first time. This lack of education about these dangerous drugs has resulted in many deaths over the years, usually amongst kids in junior high and high school who try it for the first time and OD on it.

The really sad thing is that it seems teens aren't the only ones who haven't learned from others mistakes. Even after losing many from their own Hip Hop community to Purple Drank and Sizzurp, many rappers still continue to praise the drink in their songs and make it sound like it's nothing but harmless fun. In a shocking display of irony, rapper Lil Wayne can be seen holding a styrofoam cup which supposedly has Purple Drank in it and has "R.I.P. DJ Screw" written on it in the video for the song "Duffle Bag Boy" by Playaz Circle. Imagine if your friend died from smoking crack, and you held up a crack pipe with your friends name on it. I doubt most people would want to be remembered for the thing that killed them. It's even worse if you were to do that while smoking crack yourself and glorifying it in your songs, instead of acknowledging that it took the life of your friend and should be avoided. There's an old saying that goes "Those who can not learn from their mistakes are forced to repeat them". Well the same goes for those who can't learn from the mistakes of others.

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