It is never too early for a family to intervene in the case of a loved one’s drug addiction. In fact, the sooner that families take action, the better. Consider this: Research highlighted by USA Today suggests that 90 percent of people who have an addiction to something like alcohol or drugs started using those substances prior to age 18. That means people who use early tend to be people who keep on using throughout life, and that ongoing use could have disastrous consequences.
Keeping an eye on emerging drug use often means understanding what new drugs people might be exposed to, both in the real world and online. Most people love to experiment and take risks, and they often take those risks by trying out hip and new drugs. One drug they might try right now is called lean, and it is incredibly dangerous.
What Is Lean?
Lean is a slang term for a recreational drug that originally gained popularity in Houston, Texas. Today, lean is available almost everywhere, and experts say that its popularity continues to grow.
Lean’s appeal lies, in part, to its accessibility. People who want lean do not need to buy it from a dealer—they can simply make it. Its main ingredient is prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine. Next, the cough syrup is generally mixed with other ingredients like lemon-lime soda and pieces of hard candy, like Jolly Ranchers. The purplish hue of the drink comes from dyes in the cough syrup.
It is easy enough to learn how to make lean from one’s peers or to search online for recipes. There are videos available that provide step-by-step instructions for those who want to make their own version of the substance. People also discuss best practices for making it in online forums.
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Lean’s Addiction Capability
While you might think it is strange for a person to drink cough syrup—especially when that person might have been resistant to taking the medication when they were younger and sick—those who use lean have a reason they experiment.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), codeine (one component of the cough syrups used) is a narcotic. This medication can help to soothe a cough, but it can also cause a dissociative state in which colors, sounds, and experiences become bended and unusual. A person who uses lean might experience a completely different reality, and that might be quite enticing to someone who wants to experiment with drugs.
Additional Lean Dangers
When addiction experts discuss lean concerns, they often focus on codeine; however, there is another ingredient that could cause a great deal of danger: promethazine.
Promethazine, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is designed to relieve allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, and itching, which can be triggered by colds or other illnesses in addition to allergic reactions. It is commonly found in the cough syrups people use to mix a batch of lean. This is a medication that can cause a variety of negative side effects, including:
- Slow breathing.
Signs of Lean
For families to effectively intervene with someone who is using lean, they need to know what it looks like and how people who take the drug typically act. Then, when these signs appear, families can take action and ensure that the abuse stops before something catastrophic happens.
A good tipoff is the physical appearance of lean. Usually, it is a purple-colored liquid (due to the colorful dye found in cough syrup), but the overall color can change depending on the flavor of the fruit-flavored hard candy that is also added to the mixture. Brightly colored drinks with a faintly medicinal smell are very likely lean.
The slang used to describe it can also be a good indicator. People who use drugs may talk in a form of code, so that those around them are aware of their drug use. Street names for lean can include:
- Purple stuff.
- Purple jelly.
- Purple drank.
- Texas tea
- Excessive sweating
- Abdominal pain
- Urination issues
- Difficulty breathing
- Trouble swallowing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Changes in vision
Talking about Lean
As an article in USA Today points out, many people who use lean do so because they think the drug is safe for them to use. Since they can get ingredients for the drug in the pharmacy or grocery store, it just does not seem dangerous to them. There is no drug dealer contact, and there is no crime committed. To some people, the drug seems really benign and a good option to help them get high.
Talking effectively about lean might mean talking about the impact of drugs in a general way, so users can understand the risks of continuing to use and abuse the substance.
Whatever method families use, the important thing is to talk about lean with your loved one who abuses it and ask them to get help. The families who have that conversation might even save a life.