Justin Bieber Arrest: What Is Sizzurp?

As reports circulate that Justin Bieber, 19, has been arrested in Miami Beach for DUI, one of the pop superstar’s drugs of choice is under the glare of the public spotlight as never before. Here now is everything you need to know about the dangerous recreational narcotic.

What is sizzurp?

Sizzurp is an addictive concoction that gets the user high, made by combining prescription-strength cough syrup with sugary sodas like Mountain Dew or Sprite, to which hard candies like Jolly Ranchers are added for more flavor. It’s typically sipped out of Styrofoam cups.

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How does it get you high?

Prescription cough syrup contains the active ingredients codeine and promethazine. Codeine is a part of a group of drugs called narcotic pain medicines. Usually prescribed for mild to moderately severe pain, the drug produces euphoric side effects. Promethazine is a sedative antihistamine that is frequently prescribed to treat motion sickness and insomnia and can enhance codeine’s effects. Over-the-counter cough syrups like Robitussin can also be used to make sizzurp, but their effects are more hallucinatory than purely euphoric. Adding ingredients such as vodka and crushed painkillers can increase the impairment of motor skills and general lugubriousness associated with a sizzurp high.

What’s the downside of sizzurp?

The drink is highly addictive, and codeine and promethazine can be deadly when mixed with booze or consumed in high doses. Dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in most over-the-counter cough syrups, can cause increased heart rate, fever and liver damage when taken at sizzurp levels, which can reach 25 times the recommended dose. Rapper Pimp C died in 2008 of a cough-syrup overdose, according to the L.A. County coroner’s office. In May 2013, Lil Wayne was hospitalized for seizures relating to his abuse of the drug, leading to multiple media reports that the rapper came close to dying during the medical incident.

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What are other street names for sizzurp?

There are several alternate names for sizzurp. Most popular is “purple drank,” so-called for the purple hue the cough syrup gives it. It’s also known as “lean,” “syrup,” “barre” and “purple jelly.”

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Who invented sizzurp?

While the drink has been abused as far back as the 1960s, sizzurp as we know it has its origins in the hip-hop culture of the South. It’s thought to have gained widespread popularity in Houston’s underground rap scene in the 1990s with the music of DJ Screw — progenitor of the “chopped and screwed” music style associated with sizzurp — and Three 6 Mafia, who wrote an ode to the concoction, “Sippin’ on Some Syrup,” in 2000. From Texas it spread to nearby states, including Lil’ Wayne’s home state of Louisiana, where the rap prodigy quickly adopted the drink. Wayne was shown drinking it extensively in the 2009 documentary The Carter, and subsequently protested the film’s release partly because of that.

How prevalent is sizzurp abuse among teenagers?

Since it’s cheap and easy to make, it’s very popular among U.S. teens. A 2012 survey found 5.5 percent of 12th graders said they’d gotten high off cough medicine in one form or another.

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Has sizzurp been glamorized by Lil’ Wayne’s music?

Yes. Lil’ Wayne has immortalized sizzurp on countless tracks, most famously in his 2008 single “Me and My Drank” (“Up in the studio me and my drank / Please let me be and let me do my thang / Thinkin’ about a certain somebody, that perfect somebody sexy purple body.”) Other songs to feature sizzurp: “Throw Some D’s,” “Phone Home,” “Kush,” “Watch My Shoes” and guest-raps on tracks like Kanye West‘s “Barry Bonds” and DJ Khaled‘s “We Takin’ Over.”

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What does sizzurp look like in action?

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