If you’re a fan of rap music or just a dedicated follower of entertainment news, you might have heard the name Bow Wow. Born Shad Gregory Moss and formerly known as Lil’ Bow Wow, he’s a rapper, actor, and television host who released his first album at the age of 13. He also, as he revealed earlier this month, struggled with an addiction to cough syrup that nearly killed him. In a series of tweets, Bow Wow stated that at one point he fainted on stage while touring with singer Chris Brown. He woke up in the hospital suffering from withdrawal symptoms and in extreme pain.

In one tweet, Bow Wow said that he was high on “lean” nearly every day and that he “was sipping 4’s at least 7 times a day.” According to Urban Dictionary, a 4 or ‘fo refers to four ounces of lean. Lean, also called sizzurp and purple drank, is a concoction that was created in Houston, Texas, and has prescription strength cough syrup with codeine as its main ingredient. It also contains some sort of mixing ingredient, usually soda, and a flavoring agent like a Jolly Rancher candy. Bow Wow is far from the first musician to get high on lean. Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, and the recently deceased Mac Miller have all reportedly used it.

So why would anyone want to take cough syrup recreationally? The prescription kind contains codeine, which is an opioid, and it can cause feelings of euphoria and relaxation. People abuse it for the same reason they abuse any other opioid drugs. It might also be somewhat easier to obtain cough syrup than actual opioid painkillers, as a doctor is less likely to be suspicious about a bad cough than someone suddenly developing severe pain.

The use of lean has become increasingly common among teens, in part because it’s so pervasive in the hip-hop culture. There is also a tendency among young people to think that prescription medications are less dangerous than what they’d find on the street, simply because they’re originally dispensed by a doctor. Bow Wow used his tweets to warn his young fans away from the drug, saying that he used it thinking it would make him cool, but that it wasn’t cool and “Drug free is the way to be.”


Over the counter cough syrups are also frequently abused. An ingredient called Dextromethorphan or DXM is a cough suppressant that is found in many over the counter cold medicines, including cough syrups and pills. Medicines that contain DXM typically also contain antihistamines and decongestants. People will take them either in their original form or mix the syrup with some sort of flavoring agent. Users also sometimes inject it.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.