Cape Town school warns of new drug trend
We take a closer look at the homemade drug called Lean which is all the rage among teens.

Sizzurp – also known as purple drank, syrup and lean – is a mix of codeine-based prescription cough syrup, cooldrinks and, often, sweets. What does it do? The codeine, which is an opiate, produces a feeling of euphoria. The cough syrup also contains a drug called promethazine, which acts as a sedative.

When kids talk about these products, the most common street names they use are “syrup,” or “drank,” or “lean”. So if you get a kid talking about, “Leaning on Syrup,” or even talking about, “Gonna go get me some Syrup,” these ought to be key words to parents that these kids are using codeine cough syrup.

Recently Norman Henshilwood, a school in Cape Town's Southern Suburbs sent out a warning letter to parents informing them of this new development. The letter went on to say that a Southfield pharmacy was allegedly selling cough syrup to underage children and that it had been contacted by the school and was being monitored.

The legal age for dispensing schedule 1 and 2 medications is 14 years old, so it up to parents to monitor and educate their kids about the dangers of this mixture. 

Plumstead High, another school in Cape Town's Southern Suburbs, addressed the issue with pupils at an assembly last week. Principal Craig George said that he had also gone to pharmacies in the surrounding area and asked that they not sell cough syrup to pupils.

"I am aware this drug exists, but I was not aware of the names it has been given. When making the drug, they mix cough syrup with cold drink - Sprite is popular - and add two paracetamol tablets.

"There are occasions where one is able to see a student in withdrawal, because their bodies shake. It is especially concerning, because the drug is taken on an empty stomach to enhance the potency of the high," says George.

The drug codeine is a dissociative drug with similar effects to Ketamine, which causes a kind of out of body experience. When the kids talk about doing it, they talk about leaning on syrup, because if you sip on it all day long it's like getting very drunk. And they literally have to lean on something to stand up.

Because codeine is a narcotic, it can cause addiction. If you drink too much of it, it can cause seizures and you can end up in treatment. Once a person gets addicted, they can’t just cut it off and go cold turkey, you’re going to be very ill for a while.

So these kids are messing with something that can be very dangerous in terms of their treatment, and their future lives.

Teens in particular are abusing the drink because it’s easily accessible to them. They can buy all of the ingredients used to make the dangerous drink over the counter.

George also said that the homemade drug is "popular" because "there is no smell, it has many attributes to contribute to an intense high, there are minimal side effects and symptoms unless you really know what to look out for and of course, it isn't illegal."

Locking up any medications you may have at the house, throwing out old prescriptions and talking to your children about the dangers of this drink and drugs are some of the best practices to keep your kids away from the stuff.

Information courtesy of Norman Henshilwood High and Plumstead High.
Additional reporting by Stefni Herbert.

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