Jan. 23, 2014 at 8:38 AM ET
Attention, parents: Young people are using a drink with a funny-sounding name — “sizzurp” — to get high, and the consequences are anything but amusing.
Doctors are warning that the drug, which is made by combining soda, candy and prescription cough syrup with codeine in it, can be deadly.
“This is a very dangerous drug,” said Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “It can lead to seizures and essentially lead you to stop breathing.”
Glatter told TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen that he’s encountered several teenagers hooked on sizzurp in his emergency room.
“It’s quite addictive,” Glatter said. “The sweetness of the soda and candy combined with the drug itself makes people want to have this all day long. ... They just don’t know how much they’ve had throughout the day and by then, it’s almost too late.”
Exacerbating the problem — and causing the drug to spike in popularity — is the way it’s being glamorized in songs and Internet videos. Also known as “purple drank,” “syrup” and “lean,” sizzurp typically includes Jolly Rancher candy for color and extra sweetness along with soda and prescription-strength cough syrup. The end product is said to provide an instant, euphoric high.
Superstar rapper Lil Wayne, who once praised the cocktail, was hospitalized last March after reportedly overdosing on codeine. He has since spoken out against use of the drug. A representative for Lil Wayne declined to comment on the matter on Wednesday.
Sizzurp also was attributed in the deaths of rapper Pimp C in 2007 and DJ Screw in 2000.
Despite those incidents, there is no shortage of songs and videos glorifying sizzurp use.
“Kids are seeing this all over — on social media, on the Internet,” said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “They're seeing their favorite music stars talking about this, singing about this and then they turn to the medicine cabinet.”
A recent U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report said one in 10 teens admits to using cough syrup or cold medicine to get high.
“These are dangerous prescription drugs,” Pasierb said. “Whether they're mixed with soft drinks or mixed with Jolly Ranchers, it doesn't change that fact. This is one of the more dangerous ways, frankly, to get high.”
The best advice for parents? Experts say it’s important to be proactive and warn kids about the dangers of sizzurp, even if you think your teenager would never use it. The drink is popular at parties and appears harmless with its bright colors and sweet taste — but in this case, looks are deceiving.