NBA All Star Weekend 2013: Does Houston Have a Purple Drank Problem?

NBA All Star Weekend 2013: Does Houston Have a Purple Drank Problem?
Common ingredients to the "purple drank" cocktail include cough syrup, Sprite, and Jolly Ranchers. (Unaccredited Photo)

HOUSTON, Texas – The National Basketball Association kicked off arguably American sports’ most celebrated All Star weekend Friday. A plethora of offerings on the court include the Sprint Celebrity All-Star Game, BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and the unsponsored D-League All Star Game and Dunk Contest.

Corporation partners are not the only sponsors during All Star Weekend, dubbed “The Black Super Bowl” by Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons. Athletes, musicians, actors, reality stars, and other celebrities share billing with the host city’s most popular night club promoters to provide lavish night life experiences for the tens of thousands of tourists who descend upon the city.

Houston is a unique location for reveling visitors during NBA All Star Weekend 2013 due to the city’s urban connections to the popular recreational consumption of codeine and promethazine, commonly known as cough syrup.

Known by the street monikers sizzurp, purple drank, sip-sip, or lean, the beverage is either consumed alone or made into a cocktail by mixing it with Sprite or Mountain Dew as well as Jolly Rancher hard candy.

“Sippin' on Some Syrup”, a popular song in 2000 by Memphis hip hop group Three 6 Mafia featuring Port Arthur, Texas group UGK made the drink known to the rest of the country. Other rappers referencing the concoction include Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Rick Ross, T.I., Kanye West, Lil’ Flip, Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, Jim Jones, 8Ball, A$AP Rocky, E-40, Paul Wall, Ludacris, and Fat Joe.

According to Texas State Board of Pharmacy, recreational users alternatively may get high by soaking marijuana rolled cigars or cigarettes in syrup and smoke them, known as “smokin’ sweets”.

The effect of the colorful concoction causes sedation, altered levels of consciousness, and euphoria in the user, which are all considered desired effects.

Dangerous side effects include hypoventilation and seizures. Mixed with alcohol, the effects of the concoction become more pronounced, but also more potentially more deadly. In the case of hypoventilation, the body will literally “forget to breathe”, according to Houston-area plastic surgeon Joe Perlman.

Syrup has been connected to the death of Houston rap artist Pimp C as well as the passing of the originator of the syrup influenced “chopped and screwed” music style, DJ Screw.

Codeine is listed as a Schedule II, III, and V controlled substance governed by the US Control Substances Act.
Purer forms of codeine (greater than 90 grams per dosage unit) are listed as Schedule II.

Weaker concentrations of codeine(less than 90 milligrams per dosage unit) like those used by Tylenol are considered Schedule III, while the smallest concentrations of codeine (less than 200 milligrams for 100 grams or milliliters) used in products like Robitussin A-C are listed as Schedule V.

Requests to interview from Tylenol, makers of codeine based products were not returned.

Schedule II and III codeine can only be legally acquired by a prescription while the federal government leaves Schedule V prescription regulation to the states.

The State of Texas requires schedule V codeine to be acquired by only by prescription.

According the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, individuals who distribute illegal syrup acquire it either by forging prescriptions, placing phony orders, or acquiring prescriptions from questionable sources.

Recently obtaining syrup for foreign soil has also become increasingly popular.

Derrick Rose Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives to the basket between (L-R) Anthony Morrow #22, Shawne Williams #7 and Kris Humphries #43 of the New Jersey Nets at the United Center on January 23, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Nets 110-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

Shawne Williams, top left, attempts to defend a drive by Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose. Williams was arrested in December 2012 for possession of marijuana and codeine with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Syrup has intersected with the sports world before.

The late former San Diego Chargers safety Terrence Kiel pled guilty to felony and misdemeanor drug charges involving sending codeine-based cough syrup to Texas and was sentenced to 3 months’ probation in 2007.

Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was arrested for codeine possession in 2010 and released after posting $2,500 bond.

Multiple arrests over several years involving codeine landed former starting Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly in jail for 6 months in 2011 and an indefinite suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He was originally sentenced to a 6 year jail term.

Most recently, former Portland Trailblazers power forward Shawne Williams was arrested in December of 2012 for possession of marijuana and codeine with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell.

Because of the popularity of the concoction and the enormous amount of revelry that reportedly takes place during All Star weekend synonymous with an adult spring break, newcomers to the Houston area may want to indulge.

The Houston Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration could not comment on any ongoing codeine investigations, but does currently defer codeine related probes to the Houston Police Department.

“Yeah, it is definitely going to be a large quantity of people looking to do it for the first time this weekend. People have sipped on lean since back in the 80’s in Houston. The rest of the country is just catching up,” commented Chicago rapper and Houston native Nicholas Kane.

“I know people in Chicago who do it. Most of them picked it up by going to Texas. They picked it up going to events like South By Southwest in Austin (Texas)”, stated Kane.

South By Southwest is a set of increasing popular film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences that takes place annually in March in Austin Texas.

The NBA All Star Game was last held in host city Houston in 2006. Houston Police Department could not confirm whether there was an increase in codeine related arrests during the surrounding time frame.

It remains to be seen whether any incidents involving visitors to the Houston area, especially those of the high profile nature, will come to light this weekend.

A darkened night club, vehicle, or hotel room might be another story entirely.

Conjecture and speculation may be the only thing to lean on.

Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is a nationally award winning entertainment and sports attorney, on air legal analyst and personality, syndicated writer, Fortune 500 speaker and peak performance strategist, author, philanthropist,  and sports business and law blogger for ChicagoNow. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.

(c) 2013, Exavier Pope, 528 Media Group, LLC

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