On Tuesday March 12, one of hip-hop’s noted rappers, Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., better known as Lil Wayne was admitted to the hospital after having a seizure during a video shoot. The rappers stomach was pumped three times at the Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angles and doctors say he had large amounts of codeine in his system.
Promethazine, a medication which uses codeine as its main active ingredient, is supposed to be prescribed for severe cold and cough symptoms. However, Promethazine has become very popular drug for rappers over the past decade. The medication is usually mixed with soda, termed “Syrup”, “Sizzurp”, “Lean”, or “Purple Drank”, and is referred to in more than a few rap songs. Lil Wayne not only uses the drug, but also frequently sings about in his music. In 2007, Lil Wayne did a feature with the group Duffle Bag Boys, opening the song by saying “Weed and Syrup until I die, as a matter of fact it’s going to kill me”. The drug was recognized as causing the death of two well-known artists in the south, DJ Screw in 2000 and rapper Pimp C from the group UGK in 2001.
Rappers boast and promote the drug in their songs but fail to acknowledge the damage it does to your body, particularly your heart and liver. According to drugsforum.com, codeine is an opiate and its most common effect is euphoria, explaining the leisure use of the drug. Drugsforum.com also states that codeine is a high respiratory depression drug and, in large doses, is highly addictive and can cause mental and physical dependency.
Here at UWG, Promethazine is constantly prescribed to students for colds but usually doesn’t contain codeine. “I just take the medication at night to help me sleep, but I’ve had friends ask to buy the medication from me so that they could drink it and get high,” said a student at the Health Center. With this being a nationwide issue, the Health Center is extremely aware and takes all the necessary precautions to avoid the drug’s abuse.
Dr. Leslie Cottrell, the Director of Health services and physician, discussed the precautions of prescribing certain medications to avoid misuse and overuse. “Health Services at UWG seeks to teach and train students to use healthy coping practices to deal with acute and chronic health problems. So as a result, the Health Center provides little or no pain meds that are offenders,” Cottrell said. Cottrell also outlined the Health Center’s bylaws, describing how medications are not prescribed or replaced if they are “lost”, if the student has medical history of rehabilitation, or if the student has a record of visiting multiple facilities for medication. “We are even more careful about prescribing meds with addictive potential such as sleeping pills, chronic muscle relaxers, benzodiazepines, and codeine based cough syrups,” said Cottrell.
What these musicians fail to realize is their music is extremely influential to its listeners, particularly the younger ones, putting them at risk for the same medical issues. It seems that the more rappers talk about their personal drug use and drug experiences in their music, the more popular the drugs become. A local Detroit radio station pulled rapper Rick Ross’s music from their station for making reference to putting the drug “molly” in a woman’s drink to get her home with him. Many were outraged and felt that the rapper was condoning date rape. Rick Ross did an interview with New Orleans radio station Q 93.3 to clear up what he said was a “misinterpretation” of his lyrics.
Because hip hop is such a popular genre of music, especially among young adults, these lyrics and references to drugs will continue to influence them if these artists don’t speak out about the truths and dangers of drug abuse.