Lean – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the term ‘lean’ appear on social media and you would like to know what it means? The term ‘lean’ or ‘slope’ refers to a recreational drink that’s made from prescription-strength cough syrup mixed with soda. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the term and harmful drug abuse trend.


The term ‘lean’ refers to a recreational drug mixture that’s made from a combination of cough syrup and soda, sometimes mixed with other ingredients to disguise its color and taste.

‘Lean’ might be called by other names, including “Dirty Sprite”, “Purple Drink”, “Oil” or “Sizzurp”.

The original name for the drink as ‘lean’ is apparently said to refer to the inability to stand up straight when the user is intoxicated enough.

The drink itself is guessed to have originated with blues musicians in Texas before it spread to other groups.

‘Lean’ combines cough syrup and soda (to disguise its taste), with a common result of the drink being purple although other colors and variations exist.

Sometimes ‘lean’ is mixed with other ingredients, such as hard candy to further change the taste of the drink as the candy dissolves due to the carbonation. ‘Lean’ can also be used as a combination drink with alcohol, although this makes the potential for overdose much more likely.

The term ‘lean’ has been in popular use since at least the 1990s, but the term has experienced a sudden revival through TikTok with its mention in 2021.

The recreational use of ‘lean’ is considered opioid abuse, and its side-effects and overdose is deadly.

Example Usage

“Did you know that the guy who released the original song about #lean in the year 2000 eventually overdosed from doing it himself? Well…”

“If you don’t have anything to bring to the party, let’s just get some soda and make some lean. I have a cousin who died from doing it, but I’m sure we’ll be just fine if we get the mix right, right?”

“If you can’t afford any of the proper drugs you’ve read about in your favorite novel, I’m sure you can go the cheaper way and try some lean. You might die, but at least you’ll be saving some money before you do.”

“Uhm, guys, if the lean comes out yellow instead of purple, can we still call it purple drink at the party?”


The term ‘lean’ is likely to have come from the popular combination of cough syrup and over-the-counter drinks like beer or soda, which became a staple of codeine-addicted blues musicians in the 1960s who did not have access to stronger opiates.

‘Lean’ would later spread from the blues-heavy area of Texas to other parts of the United States, particularly the Southern US where easy access to the drug made it a popular combination.

‘Lean’ would receive further coverage when it was mentioned by Three 6 Mafia in their 2000 single, after which the term started to come into mainstream focus.

Newspapers would report on the lean-phenomenon often throughout the 2000s, though the term would experience a sudden revival when it came to the attention of TikTok users in the year 2021.

Use of the term ‘lean’ on TikTok would bring the term back into more popular mainstream use, and make more users aware of the drug (but arguably, would also inspire other people to realize that it exists in the first place).

Phrases Similar to Lean

  • Texas Tea
  • Slope
  • Dirty Sprite

Phrases Opposite to Lean

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Lean
  • lean

Ways People May Say Lean Incorrectly

The term ‘lean’ can be misunderstood or used in the wrong context if someone does not understand the double-sided meaning of the term or its context.

‘Lean’ is not used in the physical sense of the word on most social media platforms, but instead refers to a recreational mixture made from cough syrup, soda and sometimes other ingredients to mask the taste.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Lean

The term ‘lean’ can be used as a hashtag, as part of a comment or as part of a sentence or discussion.

‘Lean’ is mostly used as a reference to the cough syrup and codeine mixture, also called ‘purple drink’ or ‘dirty Sprite’.

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