Monday, August 29, 2011

Drug Alert Watch - Purple Drank

  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a "Drug Alert Watch" to law enforcement and public health officials regarding the increase in the abuse of cough syrup. The DOJ in their drug alert stated, " Law enforcement and treatment provides in Huston and San Antonio (TX), Alabama, and other areas of the southern United States, are reporting that abuse of a readily available prescription-strength cough syrup containing promethazine (an antihistamine antiemetic) and codeine (a prescription opioid) appears to be increasing.  This cough syrup is the main ingredient in a drink mixture commonly known as Purple Drank.  Effects of Purple Drank are consistent with the abuse characteristic of other opioids and results in a sedative and woozy or swooning euphoria.  The narcotic drink mixture is highly addictive and has contributed to overdose deaths 1

Can I use “Purple Drank” in the Air Force?
No, producing and drinking the mixture called “Purple Drank” is a wrongful use of a drug prescription (AFI 44-120, Attachment 1).
Can I use "Promethazine-Codeine Cough Syrup" in the Air Force?
Yes, only when a military member or civilian employee with a medical diagnosis that is being treated by using cough syrup that contains promethazine-codeine.  The drug is typically used to treat allergies, bronchitis, the common cold, influenza, and sinusitis.
If a military member is using cough syrup that contains promethazine-codeine, then the member is required to have a current prescription on file with their home station medical clinic.  Failure to have a current prescription when using  prescription cough medicines is consider abusing the drug and if the member tested positive for the drug, the member can be prosecuted under the UCMJ. Furthermore, if a member has not report the use of the drug and the member tested positive, then the member is consider to have illegally used the drug until the member can provide documentation that proves the member has a legitimate current prescription for treatment of their medical condition.  In addition, the military member would not be allowed to participate for pay and points until the case has been processed.
A civilian employee is not required to have a current prescription on file.  However, a civilian employee using cough syrup that contains promethazine-codeine without a current prescription can be discipline or discharged for the illicit use of a controlled substance. If an employee’s drug test is positive.  The employee would be contacted by the Medical Review Officer (MRO).  The MRO will request documentation, from the employee, that shows the employee had a current prescription.  If the prescription is not current or the employee had no legitimate reason to use the prescription cough medicine, then the employee could be disciplined or discharged from employment.

Specifications on “Purple Drank”:

Description: See figure 1

Figure 1
2 Common Effects: Dry month, drowsiness, listlessness, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, nightmares, dizziness, ringing in ears, blurred or double vision, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, nervousness, restlessness, hyperactivity, abnormal happy mood, stuffy nose, itching, uncontrollable shaking of the body, tongue sticking out, hallucinations, difficulty breathing or swallowing, yellowing of the skin or eyes, seizures.

Packaging: No standard packaging. “Purple Drank” is a liquid mixture that contains cough medicine with promethazine-codeine, lemon-lime soda, fruit juice, sport drinks or alcohol, and assorted hard candies. The mixture is usually purple in color. The mixture can be mixed in any type of container.

Can be bought at: Most retail pharmacies that carry over-the-counter or prescription cough medicines.  Also, in medicine cabinets of friends, relatives and family members.

2 Common Names: Purple Drank, Sizzurp, Lean, Syrup, Drank, Barre, Purple Jelly, Texas Tea, Oil, Player Potion.

Users: Primarily teens and young adults in communities that are in the southern part of the United States especially in Texas, Alabama and Florida.

3 Cost:   $0 - $50 depending on the availability of the cough medicine (medicine cabinets, over-the-counter or prescription purchases, friends) and the ingredients needed to produce the “Purple Drank” mixture.

1Drug Alert Watch, U.S. Department of Justice, SENTRY Watch,, EWS Report 000011, 19 May 2011.
2 National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Drugs and Supplements,, 1 January 2011
3 Drug Intelligence Brief, OPANA Abuse, DEA Philadelphia Division Intelligence Program, May 2011.