Lil Wayne seizure puts spotlight on rappers' use of 'sizzurp'

DJ Screw's protege and member of his Screwed Up Click crew, MC Big Moe, died at 33 in 2007, after a heart attack and a weeklong coma. No direct connection was made to sizzurp, but Big Moe, whose music was a psychedelic take on Chopped and Screwed mixes, was not shy about discussing his use of codeine cough syrup. His best-selling song was "Purple Stuff" on his Purple World album.

Also in 2007, Pimp C of the Texas rap duo UGK died at age 33 in Los Angeles after overdosing on codeine cough syrup in conjunction with a preexisting sleep condition, according to the Los Angeles County coroner. Ironically, the rapper may have helped popularize the substance that sped his demise. He provided a guest rap on Three 6 Mafia's underground hit "Sippin' on Sizzurp," which spread the gospel of recreational cough syrup use in 2000.

Florida MC Ross made his syrup feelings clear on 2011's "The Boss": "Back to the thuggin', now I'm sippin' sizzurp/All my niggaz love it, baby, that's my wizzerd." Although he has not publicly addressed the toll purp drank has had on his health, Ross suffered unexplained seizures twice in 2011 and another seizure last year.

Sizzurp also gets a notable shout out on Far East Movement's 2010 smash hit single (and ode to private jet travel) "Like a G6."

In October, Lil Wayne experienced two seizures on private planes in as many days and was admitted to a Louisiana hospital. A representative said the performer was suffering from dehydration and migraines.

Regardless of what triggered those seizures or his most recent episode, medical experts say the codeine in sizzurp — an opiate in the same family of drugs as heroin and morphine — makes the habit hard to kick.

"There's a misconception that codeine is a weaker formula of the same class of medicine" as heroin, said Dr. George Fallieras, an emergency room physician at Los Angeles' Good Samaritan Hospital. "But the amount of codeine these guys ingest with the syrup is massive.... It's just the same as someone being addicted to heroin, except they're not using needles."

Times staff writer Amina Khan contributed to this report.