Health
1:59 pm
Mon January 3, 2011

Public Health Expert Worried About "Purple Stuff" Drink Expanding Distribution

The makers of a legal drink that references a recreational drug say they are expanding distribution to more than 1,200 retail stores including twenty Signature Austin Convenience Stores in and around the city.

Purple Stuff, made by Funktional Beverages out of the Houston suburb of Tomball, is a "relaxation/focus" soda that includes valerian root, rosehip, and L-theanine. It is inspired by the combination of a soda and codeine/promethazine cough syrup that originated from Houston's hip hop community and is referred to by names like drank, sizzurp, lean, and Texas tea.

Almost anyone who listens to southern rap is familiar with drank. Groups like DJ Screw and Three 6 Mafia raised the profile of drank with their commercial success, and a long list of critically acclaimed artists have referenced the drug in their songs.

Not surprising then that demand for legal knock-offs like Purple Stuff "is growing exponentially by the word of mouth of US teenagers," according to a Funktional Beverages press release. And while the ingredients in Purple Stuff are not dangerous, some public health advocates worry about the message the product sends to young people.

"This is the worst thing that I've seen since candy cigarettes," Dr. Ron J. Peters, associate professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston told KUT News.

"You see someone smoking and then you want a smoke, and you would have candy cigarettes when we were younger. But this actually gives you a quasi effect as if it were the real thing," Peters said. "That's what makes this such an unethical product."

It might be difficult to understand the appeal of drank outside of the cultural context of Houston hip hop. Check out Part 5 of this documentary on Houston's rap scene by VBS TV in which one of the filmmakers consumes drank himself.