Purple drank, the addictive concoction of cough syrup and carbonated drinks and subject of hip-hop songs, has become the inspiration for a dietary supplement company’s new product, Legal Lean.
According to its label, the drink contains chamomile, melatonin, high fructose corn syrup and vitamin B, and the 2-ounce bottles are marketed as “liquid relaxation.” Though it does not contain opiates, as the illegal beverage does, several advocates in Durham, North Carolina, are protesting the sell of the beverage due to its association with the drug-infused drink that has been popularized by rappers like Lil Wayne and the late Pimp C.
The name itself, Legal Lean, draws comparisons to another nickname for the recreational drug lean, Wanda Boone, founder of nonprofit Durham TRY, told The Herald-Sun. She recently discovered the beverage was sold at stores in Durham.
“Sippin’ Syrup,” “Purple Drank,” and “Lean” are all street terms for a homemade concoction containing cough syrup that users drink to get a high,” she said.
Her organization seeks to combat substance abuse, especially in Durham’s youth community. Her concerns are echoed by Durham community activist Minister Paul Scott.
“The (illegal) drink is glorified in today’s rap music and has caused the deaths of hip hop artists. Legal Lean is being promoted as having the same effects,” Scott wrote in a note to Mayor Bill Bell.
The product, which is manufactured by the company behind snortable chocolate Coko Loko, sells for $12.50 online. According to a spokesperson on the site, Legal Lean is also sold at “corner stores and smoke shops.”
Though many have called for more regulations, Legal Lean’s natural ingredients exclude it from FDA regulations, Cynthia Kuhn, professor in the Duke University School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, told the Herald-Sun.
“You don't know if there is effective dosage in there, and you don't know if they interact with each other because they haven’t, much, been studied in combination.”
In a promotional video, a man can be seen purchasing Legal Lean and within hours exhibiting drowsy symptoms and requesting “ a case” of Legal Lean.
Though the website specifies Legal Lean is for adults 18 and older and is not approved by the FDA, advocates like Scott and others say its hip-hop connotation and promises to relax and calm may be appealing to young people.
“We’re in an age when millennials are waking up socially and politically, and it’d be a shame to put them back to sleep,” Scott said. “Parents in Durham should be scared.”