Drugs are referred to by slang names for a variety of reasons.
For example, some drugs have unappealing chemical names that don’t roll off the tongue, and users come up with shortened versions of those names to ease dialogue. Other drugs have instantly recognizable names that teens are sure will send up red flags for watchful parents. Speaking in code allows them to skip those names and discuss drugs in a more covert manner. And finally, some drug makers change the names of their drugs in order to increase their brand recognition among drug users. It’s a common tactic among large companies, and those who achieve brand recognition tend to make more money from the products they sell.
Parents should keep in mind, however, that slang is ever changing.
This article will outline some street slang used for common drugs. The terms that are in use now might not be terms that are common in the months and years to come. So while this article can give parents a background in drug slang, parents should also make a habit of stopping their teens when they hear a word they don’t know. Asking for a definition, and then verifying that the definition the teen provides is correct, might be the best way to decode slang for drugs.
Street Slang for Drugs
Many slang terms revolve around what the drug looks like. This makes slang terms for heroin region-specific, as heroin’s appearance can vary dramatically depending on where the person lives. For example, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, heroin is often sold as a white powder in the eastern United States while it’s sold as a black solid in the western part of the country.
Therefore, on the East Coast, heroin is called China white or antifreeze, while on the West Coast it’s called black tar or Mexican mud.Other slang terms for heroin revolve around playful modifications of the word itself. Horse and Big H are two examples of these terms. Other slang terms revolve around how the drug makes a user feel. Smack, junk and scag all fit this usage quite well.
Combinations of heroin with other drugs might also merit their own slang terms, such as:
- A-bomb: Heroin and marijuana
- Bombitas: Heroin with amphetamines
- Speedball or Dynamite: Heroin combined with cocaine
- Whiz-bang: Heroin combined with morphine
Marijuana use among teens is common. In fact, according to the Partnership at Drugfree.org, only 26 percent of teens surveyed agreed with the statement, “In my school, most teens don’t smoke marijuana.”
With this use so rampant, it’s likely that teens know of many, many different ways to refer to marijuana.Some slang terms, such as pot, weed, ganja, hashish, reefer, Mary Jane or grass, have been in usage since the 1960s, and many parents may be on the alert for these terms.
But, there are other ways to refer to the drug that might not be so easily spotted. These terms include:
- Honey oil
- Panama Gold
Cocaine and Crack Cocaine
Many slang terms for powdered cocaine seem to be inspired by the drug’s white, fluffy appearance. These terms include: snow, blow, flake, white, powder and marching powder. Crack cocaine, which tends to have a crystalized appearance, seems to invite separate terms such as: readyrock, sticks or French fries. Cocaine can also be referred to as Charlie, coke or C.Some slang terms refer to how the drug is used. Snorting or tooting involves sniffing the powdered form of the drug, while freebasing refers to using crystalized forms of the drug. A person who cooks is mixing cocaine with water in order to make crack cocaine. A person who makes a coolie laces a cigarette with cocaine.
According to an article produced by CBS News
, one in 33 teens in the United States has tried meth, and a quarter of these teens say it would be easy to get meth. It’s clear that teens know what the drug is, and it’s also clear that many think the drug is interesting and perhaps worth trying. The terms used to describe meth might cause some teens to believe that the drug is safe, as the terms seem harmless or even a bit silly. Common slang phrases include: speed, crank, chalk, glass, crystal, ice, fire, hillbilly crack and white cross.
A person who uses meth might be called a crankster, and a person high on meth might be called a tweeker. A place that manufactures meth is often called a lab, even if that production is taking place in a kitchen or in the living room of an apartment.
The term Ecstasy can already be considered slang, as the proper name for the drug is MDMA or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. This synthetic drug creates an increased feeling of energy, and tends to cause people to feel both euphoria and a need to touch and hug others. Many slang terms for this drug refer to the changes the drug brings about. Slang terms like this include hug drug, doves, lover’s speed, clarity and essence.
Other slang terms are deliberate plays on the way the drug is spelled or how it sounds.
Teens might also call Ecstasy burgers or disco biscuits. They might also talk about using Ecstasy at raves, dances, all-night parties or clubs.
Inhalants are common household substances that release fumes. Users can sniff these fumes and obtain a temporary high that’s often compared to the sensations users feel after ingesting a large amount of alcohol. Most users refer to inhalants by their chemical names or brand names, but some slang terms include glue, solvent, transmission fluid or night ox (a play on the gas nitrous oxide). More playful terms include air blasts, boppers, buzz bombs, bullet bolts, hippie crack, laughing gas, moon gas, poor man’s pot, Texas shoe shine or toilet water. A person who uses inhalants is often called a sniffer, huffer, bagger or gluey.
Ketamine was originally developed for anesthesia, and it’s commonly used in veterinary procedures. According to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence,
teens who use ketamine often use other drugs, such as Ecstasy, LSD or Rohypnol, depending on what they can find in the moment and the effects they’d like to cause in their own bodies. Teens who use ketamine, therefore, might be quite savvy about many drugs of abuse.Ketamine is often referred to as Special K, but other slang terms include K, ket, Vitamin K, cat valium, breakfast cereal, horse tranquilizer, new ecstasy and super heroin.
Many drugs come in pill form, but teens who use the following terms are often referring to prescription medications they can find in medicine cabinets.
These terms include:
- Yellow jackets
- Red devils
- Blue devils
- Pep pills
Teens might also refer to these medications by their brand names or by the ingredients included in the medications. Teens who abuse prescription drugs on a regular basis become quite savvy about how to prepare the proper dose of medications, and they may display uncommon knowledge about how long it takes medications to kick in, and how much is needed in order to bring about a specific change.
The prescription medication Vicodin is so popular with teens that it merits its own heading. This pain medication was originally created for people in severe pain, but over time, the medication has become quite popular for treating even moderate pain. As a result, the drug is remarkably common in medicine cabinets across the nation, and teens often turn to the drug for abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse
, nearly one in 12 high school seniors reported using Vicodin for a nonmedical purpose in a survey published in 2010. Teens who use Vicodin for recreation might use slang terms such as fluff, scratch, vikes, idiot pills, hydro, norco and Watson 387.
See More on Spotting Drug Use: How to Spot Paraphernalia and Identify Drugs You Come Across.
If your teen seems to be speaking another language and you’re sure drugs are to blame, we can help. At Newport Academy, we help teens overcome addiction issues through therapy, medications and group meetings. We’d like to tell you more about our programs. Please call us to talk to one of our addiction counselors today.
Teens who use these terms may not be using drugs themselves. After all, teens are heavily influenced by their peers, and they may be simply picking up terms they have heard from others and then incorporating them into their own speech. But, drug-related slang should be considered a red flag. Teens who use these terms know something about drugs, and they need to augment that knowledge with good information from their parents.
In fact, some teens who use these terms might desperately want their parents to notice their drug use.
It could be a cry for help that teens are using in the hopes of spurring a larger talk on drug use and abuse. It’s not something that should ever be ignored.