Moral Panic

Today Show Worried About Cough Syrup Drink "Sizzurp"

Have you heard of it? Is it the aughts?

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also included cough syrup
"The Simpsons"

NBC's Today show wants to make sure you know about the sizzurps:

Attention, parents: Young people are using a drink with a funny-sounding name — "sizzurp" — to get high, and the consequences are anything but amusing.

Doctors are warning that the drug, which is made by combining soda, candy and prescription cough syrup with codeine in it, can be deadly. 

"This is a very dangerous drug," said Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "It can lead to seizures and essentially lead you to stop breathing."

Sizzurp is a drink that includes cough syrup (for the codeine, as opposed to the DXM) for its mind-altering effects. Today's national investigative correspondent doesn't offer any statistics on fatalities or even hospital visits for cough syrup ingestion, as a recent study on the risks of shopping carts ("estimated 530,494" injured children over 21 years) did. The story does mention a DEA report that one in ten teenagers admit (or claim!) to have used cough syrup to get high, and reports that sizzurp was "attributed in the deaths" of two rappers, DJ Screw, the Houston rapper who actually popularized the drink to a wider audience, in 2000, and Pimp C in 2007. No distinction is made that the deaths were overdoses with, in the first case, a mix of drugs, and the second, pre-existing sleep apnea.

I get it. It's a drink that includes a bunch of substances (cough syrup*, candy, soda) that are generally legal, but to varying degrees also frowned upon by the kind of people who like the idea of controlling substnaces. Cough syrup, thanks to fearmongering like this, is an increasingly controlled substance already.  So although Google searches for sizzurp peaked almost a year ago, when the rapper Lil Wayne's hospitalization was linked in the press to abuse of the drink (also mentioned by Today), it's still fresh ground for the kind of anti-drug crowd that finds "sizzurp" to be a funny name.

Actual drug warriors have put sizzurp on their watchlists years ago. A 2006 ABC News report warning about the "culture" of sizzurp noted:

Authorities have recently tried to crack down on the drug, but while the crackdown has made it harder to get, it's also made it easier and more profitable to traffic. "A year and a half to two years ago the price for a pint of codeine promethazene cough syrup was about $20 and was called a deuce, and for 16 oz, which was called a PT cruiser, would go for about $120 to $125," says [a professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Ron] Peters. "Now a pint of codeine promethazene would go for anything from about $250 all the way up to $350." Pharmacists, doctors and drug dealers from other states are getting into the act, says Peters.

We have always been at war with cough syrup.