It’s not unusual for sub-cultures to develop their own language to keep their communications secret from the mainstream. African slaves did it in the original colonies. Police do it as a short-hand for dispatch and reports. Cold War spies did it and attempted to decode messages from their enemies. Musicians do it to a beat. And teenagers have done it in every generation of recorded history.
The drug sub-culture is no exception. Developing street lingo for drugs to avoid being discovered by authorities is a common practice. Police departments around the country devote significant time and resources to cracking the drug code, so they can curtail the drug trade on our streets. It’s constantly evolving and a complicated code to break. Street drug slang is based on references that many of us wouldn’t understand.
Common Slang Terms for Common Drugs
Here is a list of common street drugs and a few of their aliases:
- Marijuana: grass, green, weed, herb, ganja, 420, Mary Jane, doobie
- Heroin: brown sugar, white horse, china white, black stuff, gum, dope, golden girls
- Cocaine: All-American drug, Aunt Nora, candy cane, lady, white horse, zip, flake, toot
- PCP: angel dust, rocket fuel, wack, embalming fluid, supergrass
- Meth: go fast, poor man’s cocaine, tweak, uppers, biker’s coffee, trash, crank, speed, chalk
Street Names for Club Drugs
Here are the most popular club drugs and their street names:
- MDMA: ecstasy, XTC, adam, clarity, lover’s speed, X, E, bean, roll, stacy
- GHB: grievous bodily harm, G, liquid ecstasy, Georgia home boy, Gamma-OH, organic Quaalude
- Ketamine: special K, K, vitamin K, cat valium, breakfast cereal, super acid, horse tranquilizer
- Rohypnol: roofies, roche, ruffies, roaches, forget-me pill, La Rocha, Mexican valium, R-2
Prescription Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is not limited to illegal drugs; over the counter medicine and prescription drugs are misused and abused at alarming rates. The substances in prescription medicine, when taken at higher doses, mimic the effects of street drugs for a lot less money. Many offenders believe they are not engaging in illegal activities when buying or possessing these substances, but that isn’t the case. It is illegal to buy or sell prescription medicine.
Prescription drug abuse is equally as serious – and dangerous – as street drug abuse. Long-term or high-dose usage of over-the-counter medicines can result in damage to vital organs such as the heart and liver, and even death – just like the street drugs.
Abuse of cold medicines that contain dextromethorphan produces hallucinations in large doses. People who engage in this type of activity are often referred to as “syrup heads” or “dexers.” The act is often called “robotripping” or “robodosing.” Over-the-counter medicines are easy to access, making them especially attractive to teenagers. Some of the slang terms reference the name of two popular brands: Robitussin and Coricidin.
Here is some drug slang parents should know refers to cold medicines:
- Red devils
- Poor man’s X
- Vitamin D
Access to prescription medications isn’t too difficult. Many drugs are over-prescribed and not tracked very well. Some people who sell their prescription drugs find it’s easy to stretch out a prescription for pain killers, for example, by telling the doctor they’re still in pain. Meanwhile, they can take advantage of the street value of those extra drugs or share them with friends. Teenagers often have easy access to prescription drugs in their parents’ medicine cabinet where they simply help themselves.
Here is some drug slang for commonly abused prescription medications:
- Vicodin: vikes
- Oxycodone: roxies, oxy
- Ritalin: vitamin R
The slang is derived from shortened versions of the drug name. In some cases, a drug slang term comes from the color of the pills, like “blues” or “reds.” Of course, this is not a reliable way of referring to the same substance because with generic products on the market, the pills are not always the same color, and there are several drugs that come in the form of blue pills.
Understanding the naming convention, however, is enough to help you realize when someone you love is talking about getting drugs. If someone has a nickname for a substance he or she takes, it’s safe to assume he or she takes it often. Decoding which drug your loved one is taking isn’t as important as convincing them to get help.
If Your Child Is Using Slang it Could Be a Warning Sign
While jargon is used to include members of a group, such as a professional group or a group of hobbyists, slang is more of an exclusive tool. Drug slang is meant to communicate about illegal or dangerous activities without alerting authorities or others who might seek to curtail those activities.
When you detect the use of slang, there are two things you want to ask yourself:
- Is this conversation about drugs?
- If they’re only talking about cough medicine, why is it important to use a language that is foreign to me and others?
Drug slang, for parents, can be a warning sign. One of the most obvious signs of drug abuse is secrecy. Even when their actions are not illegal, people who abuse drugs know they’re doing something wrong. They have an instinct to hide their behavior from anyone who is not involved in the same activities.
Use of slang, however, gives away a person’s extreme involvement. If you drive a truck for a living, you probably refer to it as your “rig.” While many people are familiar with the meaning of that term, those who are not involved in the profession or a related one probably just say “truck.”
Contact 12 Keys
If you suspect your child or loved one is using drugs, contact 12 Keys. We know the popular drug slang and can help you figure out how serious the problem is.
You should never be afraid of overstating a drug issue, whether it’s with your child or someone else who is close to you. Drug abuse is serious – and it can be deadly. When it comes to dealing with drugs in your family, you don’t have to face it alone. 12 Keys is here to help.