There is no other way to describe those addicted to “lean” than to call them dope fiends. Full disclosure; this characterization of my generation’s drug abusers, probably doesn’t sit well with many of my close friends. But this isn’t about them or their connection to this story. Prescription drug use is at an all-time high; excuse the pun. I’m not on a righteous crusade encouraging people to say no to drugs. But I believe the synthetic drug market and the drugs it creates have become dangerously glorified. So much so, that many of our young people have no idea what they’re putting into their bodies. The history of Opium is far too rich to dive into in this brief article. A simple google search will provide you with all the information you need to know about its history. But I will mention that Opium is such a powerful and addictive drug, that wars have been started over it. Look up the Opium Wars and you’ll see two nations going to war with one another, over a highly addictive plant. For the purpose of this discussion, we will limit our opiate talk to Opiates and synthetic opioids as it pertains to prescription drug abuse.
Opiates are alkaloids derived from the opium poppy (plant). Opium is a strong pain relieving medication, and a number of drugs are also made from this source. These drugs are Morphine, Codeine and Heroin (Opiates). Opioids are synthetic or partly-synthetic drugs that are manufactured to work in a similar way to opiates. Their active ingredients are made via chemical synthesis. Opioids may act like opiates when taken for pain because they have similar molecules. The types of opioids are Methadone, Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin, Lorcet, hydrocodone, pethidine, hydromorphone and fentanyl (Opioids ). The difference between Opioids and Opiates is simply how they are chemically derived. They both have the same affects on your body and are highly addictive. Despite this fact, Pharmaceutical companies are permitted by the U.S. government to continue to produce these opioids and opiates. These drugs are far more addictive than cocaine or any other Class I narcotic. Except, manufacturing and selling these drugs isn’t illegal.
Now that we’ve gotten the small chemistry lesson out of the way. Allow me to speak plainly. The highly addictive cough syrup your friend, boyfriend or cousin takes recreationally; is slowly killing them. The promethazine codeine cough syrup in certain doses, over a long period of time is enough to kill anyone. But drug abusers take it a step farther and take Percocet pills as a chaser, to the highly addictive cough syrup. It would be comparative to you taking a shot of Hennessey and chasing it with another shot of Hennessey. The problem with this is that such high doses of opioids at one time almost guarantees addiction; rapidly over a short period time. The body eventually gets use to a particular dosage and to feel the euphoric effects of the drug you must take higher doses. The drug’s effect on the body is a soothing, relaxed, dream like feeling. This “high” is addictive, especially to someone who wishes to escape from something. The incentive to abuse opioids is similar to the “high” crack addicts chased in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s. The difference being these opioids have been chemically manufactured to be as potent as they can be. Imagine chemist taking crack and making it 20 times more addictive then it already was. This is what Opioids are, the most concentrated doses, of the most addictive narcotic that this earth has ever produced. This is nothing to dismiss.
Hip Hop culture has promoted “drinking lean” (promethazine codeine cough syrup) in a way that makes it seem as if artists have stock in Pharmaceutical companies. In fact, Actavis the primary producer of promethazine codeine cough syrup halted production in 2014. The company cited the high illegal misuse of the drug as their reason for halting production (Actavis). Actavis, most lean users say, was the most potent of all the promethazine codeine cough syrup produced. Another company Hi-Tech still produces a less potent form of promethazine codeine cough syrup. Actavis, even changed its name after discontinuing the syrup. The company was worried about the bad publicity it was receiving, from artist rapping about their brand in their songs. Hip hop artist Future’s entire musical content is based on his love of “lean”, women, clothes and Percocet. Future’s mixtape Purple Reign was an ode to the popular drug. The rapper admits he has a serious drug addiction. But this admission has not garnered the usual response as one would think. If a friend tells you he’s an addict, you take him to get help. Except, for Future it seems this admission has endeared him to many of his fans; many of them being able to relate to his drug use. I suppose his dope music is for his dope fiend fans. This isn’t to say anyone who listens to Future is also a drug user. I love Future’s music and although I’m conflicted with his drug use. I must admit the euphoric state he raps in, makes for great music. I guess his addiction is our entertainment. Future isn’t the first artist to rap about lean and Percocet. Houston Legend Pimp C, of the famed group UGK, was one of the pioneers of the chopped and skrewed music. This music became popularized in the 90’s Houston rap scene because of the way the slowed down version of music meshed with listeners. Many of these listeners were high off of lean. The chopped and skrewed music fit the slowed down, euphoric state they remain in while high. Pimp C died in 2007 due to a “lean” overdose (Lean Killed Hiphop).
The chemistry behind the making of opioids, the way in which many people abuse opioids and mainstream hip hop continuing to popularize the use of lean and pills. Ensures us that our affinity for opioids is here to stay. The idea that chemist created these drugs to be as potent as they can be and many of us misuse them; is baffling. I understand the chasing of the “high” and America’s overall fascination with consuming drugs. When I see young people “high” in the streets slumped over resembling Heroin addicts; its daunting. Many people will argue that their drug use isn’t the same as Heroin use. Cîroc and a 40oz of Olde English are the same thing. Both alcoholic beverages , but drinking Cîroc is cool and drinking a 40 isn’t. If you break down both drinks the active ingredient is alcohol. The same goes for Heroin and “lean”, they share the same active ingredient except one is stigmatized and the other popularized.
I’m not sure how we stop young people from experimenting with this highly addictive drug. Hip-Hop isn’t doing us any favors by continuing to make it popular. What these artists don’t show you is the Methadone clinics across the inner cities. These are the places those addicted to opioids go to seek treatment. They stand outside in line 7 days a week at 6am in the morning waiting for methadone. Methadone is coincidentally another opioid, but the effects are different, than its more potent opioid relatives. The idea of Methadone is to reduce the craving for opioids without giving you the high. This in theory allows the addict to normalize their life, while still managing their addiction. Guess who produces Methadone? The very same companies that produce the “lean” and pills that many of our youth are addicted to. From one extreme to the next Big Pharma (another name for the powerful Pharmaceutical companies) has your addiction needs covered. You wish to get “high” , there are plenty of highly concentrated, chemically produced opioids for you to choose from. You wish to get clean, there is an opioid for that as well. It would be as if crack dealers were also the ones, to give crack users what they needed to get clean. Except, the government says it’s all legal. I’m not here to pass judgement. My intent is only for you to do more research. Learn about what you or your loved ones are ingesting. Educate the youth on the effects of opioid abuse and how its ten times worse than any other drug on Earth. Take steps to counteract the popularization of lean in the minds of our youth. People are entitled to do as they wish. But educating people on the true risk of this “legal” drug and how other people are profiting off of our vices is crucial.