Teens use cough syrup to get high; lawmakers consider ID checks at registers

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DENVER — It’s called “lean,” “purple drank” or “poor man’s ecstasy” and according to teenagers, it’s showing up at high school parties all over the country.

“The parents don’t know what’s happening,” said Jino Arrendondo, a 17-year-old Denver-area high school student.

Arrendondo said the over-the-counter cough syrup is most commonly served with Sprite, Jolly Ranchers and served over ice.

“The high is pretty intense,” Arrendondo said.

He said the cocktail has been made popular by rappers — with many posting Instagram images online.

Arrendondo has tried it — but said he now hates it after watching so many friends become addicted to the drink.

He described one encounter with a friend at a party.

“When I looked my friend in the eye, I could just see his soul trying to grab my soul,” Arrendondo said. “I was honestly scared and I wanted to call my mom.”

Arrendondo is turning that fear into action, working with lawmakers at the state Capitol to pass a bill restricting who can buy cough syrups in Colorado.

HB 1307 would ban anyone younger than 18 years old from buying cough syrups and medicines with Dextromethorphan in it.

“This is a simple step to make sure our cashiers do a quick double check before they hand something out to a kid they might actually abuse,” Rep. Jonathan Singer said.

The bill will be heard in the state Senate on Monday. Arrendondo will be there to testify.

According to Singer, if this becomes law, cough syrups will still remain over the counter, but cashiers would be required to do an ID check like they do with alcohol.

Others states have previously passed this legislation, including New York and California. 

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