Prescription cough syrup making big bucks for gangs

10:28 AM, Jun 17, 2011   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - It's fast becoming the drug of choice among some teens. Prescription cough syrup known as promethazine or phenergan with codeine is mixed with Sprite soda and Jolly Ranchers.

"I think lots of kids are drawn because of the combination of candy and soda," said Deputy Probation Officer Ray Lozada. He said kids as young as 12 and 13 are using it.

Officer Lozada works with gangs in South Sacramento. He has seen an influx of the drug and drug sales among some of his people. It's less risky to sell the prescription drug than cocaine. It's also a big money maker according to Lozada.

"I found my guys with $2000 cash--in small denominations which is indicative of selling," said Lozada.

The drug which has been called "the Purple Sizzurp" or "Lean" or "Bo" can run as much as $275 a bottle.

"It turns into status when someone can afford that high-dollar drug," said Lozada.

On Wednesday, officers arrested a man who had three empty bottles of the prescription cough syrup in his car.

Lozada said it has been tough to prosecute those selling the drug.

"It's under the radar right now. There's probably not a high prosecution level as far as the D.A., as far as filing goes for criminal charges," said Lozada.

Lozada explained that guys caught selling the drug are often cited for other probation violations. 

"It allows time to put together an investigation to then present to the D.A. for prosecution," said Lozada.

Lozada said he hasn't seen any major busts involving the drug so far, "because it's that new."

The drug has been made popular because of rappers like Lil Waye, 3-6 Mafia, and Sacramento's own Lavish D.

The drug is considered a "downer."

"It almost puts you in a zombie-like state," said Lozada. "That's why they call it 'Lean.' It emulates heroin when someone is nodding or leaning."

Lozada warns parents to keep an eye out for the components that make up the drug drink: Sprite, Jolly Ranchers, and prescription cough syrup. 

"You see something like that, and it's not going to come across as an illegal substance," said Lozada.

Individually, those items are harmless but together, Lozada said they could be lethal.

By Suzanne Phan,  
Twitter: @suzannephan


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