Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sippin' on Some Syrup: Hip Hop's New Drug of Choice

Perhaps this is an old discussion, but I happened to watch Lil' Wayne's VH1 Behind the Music episode and I could not help but think: Are that many people really using cough syrup to get high? And, if so, why? The "sizzurp" discussion really began with Three 6 Mafia's song Sippin' on Some Syrup (video above), which achieved some success although the video was short-lived on BET and MTV. Hip-hop has often and unfortunately been tied with recreational drug culture, as many music genres have over the years. I don't know if hip-hop artists exhibit higher levels of use than non-hip-hop community members. I would be willing to hypothesize that the constant association of hip-hop with drugs is part of a desire for mainstream media to malign hip-hop. That, however, is a whole different discussion.

With people now drinking combinations of cough syrup and soda (and a Jolly Rancher depending on your recipe), how does this change law enforcement's policing of recreational drug use? The "syrup" involved is prescription strength and contains codeine, a Schedule II drug. There are serious addictive consequences to "sippin'." My guess is that because codeine-containing drugs are not sold over the counter in the United States, many syrup concoctions use over-the-counter versions with no codeine, but a healthy amount of alcohol. Cough syrups range from 2.5 to 25 percent alcohol. And you thought that fuzzy navel you were drinking was addictive?

MSNBC reports that one in every 14 high school seniors has used cold medicine to get high. That seems high, not because I think high school students are not involved in all sorts of risky behavior, but because... well... it's cough medicine. I guess stealing your dad's bottle of whiskey isn't cool anymore. It has been well-reported that alcoholics will use cough syrup and mouthwash to satisfy their desire for drink, so perhaps it really isn't shocking that we see individuals engaged in this behavior. It's really not a new trend. What is law enforcement to do? Check everyone's cup like the breakup of a bad college party? Ignore the precocious syrup drinkers? Take cough syrup in any form off the shelf?

Most of us remember when Sudafed was pulled off the shelves because it contained psuedoephedrine, which could be converted into methamphetamine. Although the makers of Sudafed, Pfizer/Warner-Lambert, were able to find a drug to replace psuedoephedrine, apparently the original version can still be found (I don't read labels that closely to say more.). Is that what will become of cough syrup? Will this spur innovation in drug making or be ignored because it only effects "those hip-hop artists?"

So where do we see this syrup trend going? What might law enforcement do if anything? What is the government's role in regulating these types of practices?

-- Nick J. Sciullo

(Video contains content from Sony Music Entertainment)


  1. "Syrup" is def. not a new drug trend. This 3-6 mafia song was produced 5 years after Big Moe's first album "City of Syrup" and 3 years after his second album "Purple World". Both albums dedicated to the drug.

    Furthermore, i can recall as early as 1995 when i was in the 5th grade hearing lyrics from Houston/South Texas rappers refering to the concoction you ref. It goes by several names in the south: Barre, Lean, Drank, and Syrup.

  2. Critical Thinker,

    Thanks for the additional information. I had not heard of Big Moe's albums, but have heard of syrup's many names. I unfortunately am not familiar with the history of Houston/South Texas hip-hop so it's great to see that readers like you can bring regional knowledge to the discussion.

  3. I received the following comments when I posted a link to this post on Facebook (edited for grammar):

    Person 1: WTF. I can't believe that video, and that song, are actually real. That is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen or heard in a long time. Excellent post.

    Person 2: In 2004 I was interviewed in the parking lot of Farm Fresh about teenagers buying Vanilla Extract to get high. I'll believe anything now.

    Person 3: I met some lady in one of our prisons recently who talked about robotripping... She'd tried it a few times but didn't think it did enough for her, so finally she drank like 3 freaking bottles and ended up in the hospital. Then, since she wouldn't tell them what she was on, they gave her something else that made it worse and almost killed her, so I think she's over it. I met another guy who said he used to drink rubbing alcohol since it was only 70 cents a pint. I was like, um, I thought that was poison...

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  5. I think that it is very difficult for the government to regulate these items, and in many ways ineffective. I guess I see the 'trend' as something that people do if they absolutely cannot afford common liquor, and feel the NEED to get Fuzzy.
    If someone is that desperate to do it, they will use pretty much anything, not just cough medicine (rubbing alcohol, snorting depression meds, etc).

    It's interesting to hear that down South there are names for these concoctions... Are they considered main stream and commonly used by bar-goers? I think the craziest thing I've known people to drink is red bull and vodka! The moment my friends started reaching for the medicine cabinet, I would be concerned about their level of addiction, not writing a song about how much fun it was!

  6. "sippin syrup" is not robotripping, they are two totally different things.....

    syrup's main draw is the codeine (AKA PAINKILLER) in also lets you take bigger hits of marijuana or whatever else you are smoking on because of the promethazine....these are the benefits of sippin syrup. robotrippin is an entirely different animal

  7. im sippin right now and if you dont like it well to bad

  8. yeah im sippin da syrup purple drinks on me this drank gots ma speech slurred,love it farkin yeah thats wats up south 4 life..

  9. I think this situation is gonna calm down, just give it some time. Yall ain't gotta worry about noone gettin over tis shit.

  10. This is all nuts. Thanks for your post. I feel bad for the idiots that have that deep of an addiction. The second I see me slipping into something other than pot or alcohol (real drinks, not "sizzurp" or stuff not bought at a liquor store) would be the second I check myself in - why doesn't anyone give a shit about living. Do they realize they are killing themselves and teaching their kids? I'm sure not - nor do people that care

  11. I meant nor do people LIKE that care.


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