Addiction | 6 min read

The Dangers of Using Legal Lean: How Using This Drug Can Put You In Danger’s Way

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On August 28, 2022

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On March 30, 2022

Legal Lean Dangers
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Drug abuse is becoming a national crisis, ruining countless lives every year. Not only are the lives of those addicted and dependent on the drugs being affected, but also those close to the users, who love them and hope to see them free of their addiction one day. Most people have heard of illegal drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin and are probably aware of the nation’s ongoing struggle with prescription abuse as well, but they aren’t the only dangerous substances that are impacting friends and loved ones.

One of the most dangerous recently-discovered party drugs is lean, which set the stage for many years of addictions. Lean was initially popularized by DJ Screw and consisted of a particular prescription cough syrup that included codeine and promethazine that was then combined with soda and candy. This combination creates a powerful sedative effect that can often lead to overconsumption and a long list of potential side effects and health issues.

Since the original lean was made with a prescription cough syrup, it created many of the same effects as other opioids, although to somewhat of a lesser extent since codeine is often considered one of the less potent opioids. Even still, taking lean built a dependency on the drug and significantly increased the likelihood of an overdose situation. In addition, the potential for overdose was often elevated due to lean being consumed in conjunction with other common party drugs, in particular stimulants like cocaine, which would cause the user to consume more lean to counteract the shorter-lasting stimulants.

While it is still possible to get the cough syrup needed to make the original lean, there has been a significant reduction in the ability to obtain the primary drug component needed to make it due to regulatory and legislative action. This would normally be an ideal situation, but in the wake of more difficult-to-obtain original lean, several other imitation products have been popping up in the consumer market, claiming to use all-natural and legal substances to achieve the same effects.

One of these products is called Legal Lean, made by Arco Globus Trading LLC, and it has the potential to lead you, as well as your friends and loved ones, down a potentially dangerous and addictive path of relaxation and sleepiness.

What Is Legal Lean & What Are The Side-Effects of Use?

Legal Lean is a substance designed and marketed as a substitute for illicit lean, supposedly providing a host of similar effects as the original illicit version while being formulated with only natural ingredients. The product is allegedly composed of several relaxation enhancers and sleep aid ingredients like valerian root and St. John’s Wort. Both are touted as non-prescription alternatives to popular prescription sleep medications. While these may not be the most dangerous facets of Legal Lean, there is more that you should know before taking this potentially addictive product.

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA investigated the claims, website, and chemical makeup of Legal Lean and found that there was certainly cause for concern and potentially even legal recourse. During the federal investigation, the FDA did a chemical analysis of the Legal Lean products and established that they also contain the active pharmaceutical ingredient doxylamine, the active ingredient in the popular product Unisom Sleep Tabs. In addition, some formulations of Legal Lean also have quantities of kava and kratom, making it an even more unpredictable concoction for those unfamiliar with its effects.

Not only does doxylamine cause potentially dangerous interactions when used concomitantly with alcoholic beverages, but it can also cause individuals with certain pre-existing conditions to be put in a situation where they may experience a medical complication or emergency. In addition, doxylamine has the potential to cause dangerous interactions and effects in people who have:

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • chronic bronchitis
  • enlarged prostates
  • Glaucoma

What Is Legal Lean & What Are The Side-Effects of Use?

It may also present a very dangerous hazard to those who have been previously adversely affected by doxylamine. One of the biggest dangers of Legal Lean is that the presence of doxylamine is not noted in the ingredients, so those who may be adversely affected by it have no way of knowing the danger beforehand.

Even though Legal Lean is technically legal because it doesn’t contain codeine or promethazine, some notable side effects can still occur in users. Some of the side effects of Legal Lean will be more serious in some users than others, but in most cases, the user will feel one or more of the typical side effects of usage. These side effects can include:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Periodic or sustained dizziness
  • Vision reduction or impairment
  • Damage to the memory center of the brain, affecting the user’s ability to create, store, and retrieve memories
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures in individuals that have an inherent risk

What Does The Withdrawal Process Look Like When Addicted To Legal Lean?

When a Legal Lean user becomes addicted or dependent on Legal Lean, some intense, uncomfortable, and potentially painful withdrawal symptoms will occur during the detox process. Once the individual has an established dependence, the withdrawal process can begin to occur even without stopping taking Legal Lean entirely and can start when the normal dose is only reduced by a small margin.

Since the ingredients in Legal Lean are generally short-acting and do not have a long half-life in the body, withdrawal symptoms can begin in as little as 12 hours after the last dose. In some cases, the symptoms experienced during the detox and withdrawal process are significant enough, and their severity is high enough that withdrawal should only be attempted at a professional facility that can provide medical supervision and care in case of complications.

The most common Legal Lean withdrawal symptoms will often occur in two distinct stages and will often take between one and two weeks to subside and eventually pass. These stages and symptoms are as follows:

Stage 1 (The First 48 Hours)

In the first two days following a reduction or elimination in Legal Lean usage, the user can expect to feel several of the following symptoms, in severities that are proportionate to their abuse profile:

  • Aches and pains
  • Agitation and irritation
  • Severe anxiety
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • Lack of sleep
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive yawning

Stage 2 (The Following 5-10 Days)

Once the initial detox occurs, the more serious withdrawal symptoms will begin and will last between 3 days and 2 weeks. These symptoms will often be much more unpleasant than the first stage, but when done, will signal the worst of the withdrawal period has passed. Stage 2 symptoms include:

  • Severe abdominal or stomach cramps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Several flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sweating, and aches

The intestinal distress and nausea will often cause dehydration that can become incredibly severe. This dehydration can even be the catalyst for seizures, and the seizures can be severe enough to become fatal.

How To Know if Addicted to Legal Lean

While Legal Lean is known to foster some addictive traits, they are often no different than the signs and behaviors that indicate addiction to any other substance. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines the various criteria used to determine if someone has developed a substance use disorder or has become addicted to Legal Lean. These criteria can also be helpful in self-diagnosis, they include:

  1. Taking a substance in larger amounts than directed or for longer than directed
  2. Having the desire to cut down or stop using but being unable to
  3. Devoting a large amount of time to getting, using, or recovering from the substance
  4. Having strong cravings to use
  5. Being unable to complete work, home, or school responsibilities
  6. Using, even to the detriment of relationships
  7. Foregoing social, recreational, or even occupational activities in favor of using
  8. Using even when it places the user in danger
  9. Developing a tolerance to the substance or needing larger amounts or more frequent use to experience the same effects
  10. Experiencing withdrawal or detox symptoms when not using, that is subsequently relieved when use resumes

How To Know if Addicted to Legal Lean

Legal Lean Addiction Treatment Options

If you or someone you know or care about may have started using Legal Lean and might be addicted, the most important thing to do is to reassure the user that help is available and that they are not alone. However, the dangerous nature of the withdrawal process means that you should reach out to professionals in your area before trying to quit solo.

By working with experienced addiction treatment professionals in New York, you can create your treatment plan with full confidentiality and complete the detox and withdrawal stages in a clean and safe environment. Not only will you be more comfortable, but there will be medical supervision if any complications are experienced. This means that you can lay a strong foundation for future recovery and success.

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Amanda Stevens


Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. Read more

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  1. FDA. FDA warns companies for promoting alternatives to street drugs. FDA. Published December 12, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2022.