‘Purple drank’ moves from rap lyrics to sports pages

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP)—A concoction known as “purple drank” has gone from rap lyrics to the sports pages with the arrest of former NFL No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell. He was charged in Alabama with possession of codeine syrup, a key ingredient in the drink.

Russell-Arrested
EX-RAIDERS QB ARRESTED—Photo released by Mobile County Sheriff’s Office shows JaMarcus Russell on July 5, in Mobile, Ala.

It typically includes codeine and the antihistamine promethazine, mixed with Sprite or 7Up, along with Jolly Ranchers or other hard candy. It has been growing in popularity over the past decade even if the average suburbanite hasn’t necessarily heard of it.

Russell is charged in Mobile with possession of a controlled substance. His attorney says the ex-Oakland Raiders quarterback will plead not guilty at his arraignment on July 20.

Purple drank’s origin is generally regarded as the Houston rap scene, where it has been trumpeted in such songs as Three 6 Mafia’s 2000 hit, “Sippin’ on some Syrup.”

It has had tragic effects, too. Texas rapper Pimp C’s 2007 death was attributed to the combination of codeine and promethazine, with the sleep disorder apnea. DJ Screw, a popular Houston deejay, died of a heart attack in 2000 after a reported overdose of codeine-laced cough syrup. Rapper Big Moe, whose albums included “City of Syrup” and “Purple World,” died in 2007 of a heart attack. Grammy-winning rapper Lil Wayne has mentioned purple drank in his songs, including one entitled “Me and My Drank.”

The drug is nothing new to the Mobile area, where Russell starred at Williamson High School. In fact, it has become increasingly prevalent over the last decade according to Dave Peacock, an assistant DA in Mobile County. In the last five years, there have been an average of more than 56 arrests annually. There have been 31 so far in 2010, Peacock said.

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