Although flavored cough syrup combined with alcohol is usually deadly, it seems that the DJs of the 90s forgot to mention that fact in their songs. The rise of cough syrup abuse appears to run parallel to the recent increase in molly abuse at concerts and festivals. Celebrities reference the drug molly in their songs which makes the drug seem cool and increases its popularity. Unfortunately, there are many young people who have been hospitalized due to drug overdose after consuming molly, which they believed to be safe. No illegal drugs can ever be considered safe and every time you consume a drug, you are playing Russian roulette with your life.
During the 1990s, a new genre of hip hop music became very popular in Texas, especially in Houston. One young hip hop DJ, named DJ Screw, experimented and released a collection of songs with a slower tempo and pace than current songs on the market. The music was chopped up and then slowed down. The creators called it “screw music”. The rise of screw music also coincided with the growth in popularity of a new drug called “syrup” (a.k.a. “barre” or “lean”).
DJ Screw in the 1990s. Photograph courtesy of Orian Lumpkin
Syrup is a mixture of soda and prescription strength cough syrup. When taken in large quantities, it can make the user feel sedated, yet euphoric. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports prescription cough syrup’s main ingredients are codeine and promethazine, which also has a sedative effect when taken in large dosages. Although codeine is an opioid and promethazine is an antihistamine, they are both considered depressants. Syrup mixed with alcohol will cause the central nervous system to become severely depressed.
Ingredients used to make “purple drink”
Screw music gained popularity through out the 1990s with more and more people listening to songs referencing “purple drink” (photo above) and “syrup”. These songs glamorized the recreational use of syrup and lead to the creation of more songs referencing the drug as “lean”. However, few people realized the dangers of abusing cough syrup. Long term abuse causes addiction, severe harm to the body, and even death.
An article in The Guardian reported the overdose deaths of the DJs who pioneered the new genre of screw music. In fact, the “father” of screw music, DJ Screw, died from a codeine overdose. A Houston, Texas rapper known as Big Moe suffered a fatal heart attack in 2007 due to syrup abuse. Another popular rapper named Pimp C died in his sleep after drinking the concoction.