Purple drank abuse continuing to be a problem for students

Authorities said six middle school students in Montgomery County ended up in the hospital after they drank a mixture of alcohol, candy and over-the-counter cold medicine. It happened at Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring.

"They had just general sickness after ingesting an unknown quantity of this mixture," said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. "They had some nausea and upset stomachs - things of that nature."

This incident is not exclusive to Montgomery County. Police say teenagers all over the region are experimenting with these types of cocktail mixtures and worse.

Those who work closely with students engaging in this dangerous trend say they are seeing more and more cases compared to years past. They say young people on probation can use these combinations and still pass a drug test. Also, these teenagers also view the mind-altering cocktails as legal drugs and they prefer it over marijuana or harder-to-find prescription pills.

Pop culture and poor parenting may be to blame for the uptick in young people using this dangerous and sometimes deadly combinations to get high.

"It's coming from a lot of rap music and other things of popular culture," said Eddie Atkins, program director for the Riverside Treatment Center in Southeast D.C. "A lot of the use of 'lean' or 'sizzurp.' It's coming from the Houston rap music called 'screwed and chopped.'"

Inside his workplace, Atkins sees a growing, troubled population - pill popping, purple drank sipping, syrup-addicted teenagers.

"A lot of the youth now are drinking 'lean,' which is a combination of some type of fruity drink mixed with a Jolly Rancher and the use of an opiate with it," said Atkins.

He explained this is a troublesome trend infiltrating campuses and homes. But parents can spot the life-altering signs if their child is consuming it.

"Bizarre behavior, profuse sweating, some [unusual] motivational things that is going on with them," he said. "They just have to be alert and mindful, set expectations of what they expect from their children."

"When we have the meetings, we try to help them, but they look at it as we are meddling in their business or it's too hard - they have things to do," said Rebecca Owens, a case manager at the treatment center.

She said despite the negative reinforcement in music, media and on social media, the real problem starts at home with the parents. Shockingly, Owens said most of the parents don't show up to the programs and when they do, the attitude is - how are you going to fix my child - instead of the mindset on what they can do to help solve the problem.

Often these programs are free, including the one at Riverside.