Today’s Vocab Word: “Purple Drank”

Thanks to JaMarcus Russell, I have learned a new term.

While I study anti-narcotics policy (i.e., the “war on drugs”), I primarily focus on plant-based drugs (i.e., from coca and poppies) that are imported into the US from elsewhere (especially Latin America) and so am not all that familiar with various ways to abuse licit drugs.  As such, the term “purple drank” is new to me (but the idea that certain cough syrups might be used to get high is no shock).

“Purple drank” is defined thusly:

the name given to a drink where alcohol is mixed with prescription-strength cough syrup that contains the narcotic codeine and the antihistamine promethazine. It usually is blended with 7-Up and sometimes further sweetened with Jolly Ranchers candy.

Other terms for the drink, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, are “lean” or “sizzurp.” It is generally associated with today’s hip hop music scene in the South, but Wikipedia says its use dates back to the 1960s and 1970s in Texas.

The above is from USAT’s GameOn! blog: JaMarcus Russell arrest raises questions about “Purple Drank”.

A bit of interesting trivia:  heroin was originally marketed as a cough suppressant.  See more here:  click.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Brian J. says:

    Green Bay Packers fans are way ahead of you on the vocabulary lesson.

  2. sam says:

    War on Drugs – 0

    Human Ingenuity in outwitting War on Drugsters – 10^20

  3. Herb says:

    Purple drank has been a staple of “dirty south” culture for years. My guess is that you would have heard about it a lot sooner in the context of Russell had he been drafted by Houston or Atlanta.