How To Understand Modern Drug Slang

Naomi Carr
Morgan Blair
Written by Naomi Carr on 26 March 2024
Medically reviewed by Morgan Blair on 17 July 2024

When referring to illicit substances, many people use slang terms to maintain secrecy and privacy. Most slang terms are derived from the name, shape, or color of the drug and sometimes how that drug makes you feel when it is abused. Over the years, slang terms for drugs have changed, with some falling out of popularity and use and new terms emerging.

How To Understand Modern Drug Slang

What is drug slang?

Often, people who use drugs refer to them in slang terms. This is generally so that conversations about drugs can take place without raising suspicion from parents, teachers, or law enforcement. Terms for various drugs have developed and changed over time, with slang terms being introduced and updated with each new generation.

Parents might find themselves confused by some of the language their children use and wonder whether they are referring to the use of substances. Being aware of the terms for various drugs can help in detecting drug-using behaviors. Listed below are some of the more commonly used slang terms for different types of drugs.

Slang terms for marijuana

Marijuana, or cannabis, is a plant that is typically smoked and is a widely used drug across the US and worldwide. There are various terms used to refer to marijuana that is smoked, as well as variants of the drug such as edible items and oils

Slang terms for marijuana include: 

  • Weed
  • Spliff
  • Joint
  • 420
  • Green
  • Bud
  • Dope
  • Ganja
  • Grass
  • Hash
  • Puff
  • Purple haze
  • Mary Jane
  • Pot
  • Skunk
  • Gummies (edibles)
  • Dabs (oil)

Slang terms for oxycodone

Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller often obtained through a prescription and abused by crushing and snorting. OxyContin, Percocet, and Roxicodone are some of the most commonly seen brand-name versions of oxycodone.

Slang terms for oxycodone include:

  • Oxycotton (OxyContin)
  • Percs (Percocet)
  • Oxy
  • O
  • OC
  • Hillbilly heroin
  • Roxy or Roxies (Roxicodone)
  • Bean
  • Blues
  • Buttons
  • Kickers

Slang terms for heroin

Heroin is a very addictive illicit substance often administered by injection. The use of heroin in the US has increased in the last decade, along with the rise in prescription opioid use.

Slang terms for heroin include:

  • H
  • Big H
  • Black tar
  • Brown sugar
  • Horse
  • Junk
  • Dragon
  • Scag
  • Skag
  • Smack
  • Mud

Slang terms for fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is significantly stronger than other opioids like heroin and morphine. Medicinal and illicitly produced fentanyl are sold and often mixed with other drugs because it is cheap and powerful.

Slang terms for fentanyl include:

  • Tango
  • F
  • Fenty
  • TNT
  • China town
  • China white
  • Apache
  • Cash
  • Goodfella
  • Dance fever

Slang terms for other opioids

Many other opioids are widely abused, including prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, and methadone.

Slang terms for other opioids include:

  • Percs (Percocet)
  • Dreamer (morphine)
  • Miss Emma (morphine)
  • Morpho (morphine)
  • Monkey (morphine)
  • Fluff (Vicodin)
  • Vics (Vicodin)
  • Hydros (hydrocodone)
  • Cody (codeine)
  • Schoolboy (codeine)
  • Done (methadone)
  • Dollies (methadone)

Slang terms for cocaine

Cocaine is one of the most widely abused substances and is often used as a powder to be snorted, smoked, or injected, or as a crystal (crack cocaine) which is usually smoked.

Slang terms for cocaine include:

  • Blow
  • Nose candy
  • Rail
  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Snow
  • White
  • Sniff
  • Bump
  • Rock (crack)

Slang terms for meth

Methamphetamine, meth, or crystal meth is a powerful stimulant that is sold as a white powder or crystal. It is highly addictive with a high potential for abuse and harmful effects.

Slang terms for meth include:

  • Crystal
  • Ice
  • Amp
  • Crank
  • Blue
  • Chalk
  • Chicken feed
  • Shatter
  • Speed
  • Tina
  • Super ice
  • Tweak

Slang terms for Adderall

Adderall is a medication commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also widely abused by young people to improve academic or athletic performance and is easily accessible due to the regularity with which it is prescribed.

Slang terms for Adderall include:

  • Christmas trees
  • Addy
  • Smarties
  • Study skittles
  • Beans
  • Dexies
  • Pep pills
  • Study buddies
  • Zing 

Slang terms for other stimulants

Stimulants include amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and Adderall, as well as other substances such as methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).

Slang terms for other stimulants include:

  • Kiddie cocaine (methylphenidate)
  • Pineapple (methylphenidate)
  • Rittys (Ritalin)
  • Smarties (methylphenidate)

Slang terms for Xanax

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine, commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, are highly addictive and are widely abused.

Slang terms for Xanax include:

  • Zannies
  • Xanies
  • Bars
  • Benzos 
  • Footballs
  • Upjohns
  • Yellow boys 
  • Bricks 

Slang terms for other benzodiazepines

Other benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and triazolam (Halcion). Benzodiazepines can be prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and sleep disorders such as insomnia, due to their sedating effect. Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) is also known for its sedating effects and is often used to commit assault on others (spiking).

Slang terms for other benzodiazepines include:

  • Benzos
  • Downers
  • Tranks
  • K-pin (Klonopin)
  • Roofies (Rohypnol)
  • Date rape drug (Rohypnol)
  • Vallies (Valium)

Slang terms for psychedelics

Psychedelic substances include ketamine, MDMA, LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), DMT, mescaline, and PCP. There are several different slang terms for these drugs.

Ketamine

Ketamine is a sedating anesthetic, originally used in veterinary medicine and now commonly abused for its effects. 

Slang terms for ketamine include:

  • K
  • Special K
  • Vitamin K
  • Wonky
  • Cat food
  • Jet
  • Donkey
  • Kit Kat

LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a hallucinogen. It is not available on prescription and is produced and bought illicitly. It is commonly sold as a liquid or on small squares of paper.

Slang terms for LSD include:

  • Acid 
  • California sunshine
  • Looney tunes
  • Lucy in the sky with diamonds
  • Tabs
  • Yellow sunshine
  • Lucy 
  • L
  • Dots
  • Blotter
  • Blue moon

Mushrooms

Psilocybin is a psychoactive substance found in various types of mushrooms, which are consumed for their psychedelic effects. 

Slang terms for mushrooms include:

  • Shrooms
  • Magic mushrooms
  • Alice
  • Buttons
  • Cubes
  • God’s flesh
  • Liberty caps
  • Mushies
  • Psilly Billy
  • Stemmies
  • Tweezes

DMT

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a hallucinogen with no recognized medicinal uses in the US. DMT is typically sold as a white powder which is administered by smoking, snorting, or injecting or is brewed into a tea known as ayahuasca.

Slang terms for DMT include:

  • Dimitri
  • Aya (ayahuasca)
  • Yagé

PCP

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a hallucinogenic anesthetic. It is less commonly used compared to other illicit substances but can lead to various adverse effects, particularly psychosis and severe depression.

Slang terms for PCP include:

  • Angel dust
  • Rocket fuel
  • Ozone
  • Ashy Larry
  • Blue whack
  • Blue star
  • Dipper
  • Elephant tranquilizer
  • Purple rain
  • Zombie 

Mescaline

Mescaline is a psychoactive substance found in the San Pedro and Peyote cacti. Historically, mescaline has been used in religious and spiritual ceremonies, although it is now also a drug of abuse within the US.

Slang terms for mescaline include:

  • Buttons (Peyote)
  • Big Chief
  • Cactus
  • Halfmoon
  • Mescal
  • Mescapade
  • Microdot
  • Moon
  • Shaman

MDMA

Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), also known as ecstasy, is a stimulant and hallucinogenic substance. It is often sold in a powder or pill form, which is swallowed or snorted.

Slang terms for MDMA include:

  • Molly
  • E
  • Eve
  • Adam
  • Love drug
  • Mercedes
  • X
  • Pingers
  • Rolls
  • Happy pill
  • Disco biscuits

Slang terms for inhalants

Inhalants are typically household items that release fumes, such as glue or cleaning products. These are often breathed in from a bag (known as huffing) or inhaled directly from the container.

Slang terms for inhalants include:

  • Snappers
  • Duster
  • Poppers
  • Whippets
  • Nitrous 
  • Air blast
  • Huff
  • Laughing gas
  • Oz

Common drug terminology and phrases

Drug use 

Some of the commonly used phrases in reference to generic or specific drug use include:

  • Getting high (generic)
  • Doing a line (snorting drugs)
  • Hitting the slopes (snorting drugs)
  • Chopping (preparing drugs)
  • Racking up (preparing to snort drugs)
  • Chasing (the dragon) (heroin use)
  • Slamming (injecting)
  • Huffing (inhaling gases)

People 

People who use drugs are sometimes referred to as:

  • Junky
  • Stoner
  • Zombie
  • Burnout
  • Tweaker

People who sell drugs are sometimes referred to as:

  • Dealer
  • Hookup
  • Source 
  • Plug
  • Mule
  • Cooker
  • Mailman
  • Medicine man

Mixing drugs

It is not uncommon for people to mix more than one drug. Often, these combinations are known by slang terms, such as:

  • Speedball = cocaine and heroin
  • Candyflipping = MDMA and LSD
  • Space = cocaine and PCP
  • Birria = fentanyl and heroin
  • Facebook = fentanyl and heroin in a pill
  • Domex = ecstasy and PCP
  • Love flip/trip = ecstasy and mescaline
  • Takeover = crack cocaine and fentanyl
  • Goofball = methamphetamine and heroin

Buying and selling 

  • On tick: paying later for drugs supplied now
  • Flipping/serving: selling drugs
  • Copping/scoring: buying drugs

Weights 

Drugs are often sold by weight so there are also slang terms used to describe an amount of a substance, such as:

  • One gram: Bump, gangster
  • Ten grams: Finger, pencil
  • One kilogram: Brick, loki, pillow, square
  • Quarter of an ounce: 7s, 7th
  • Eighth of an ounce: Eight-ball
  • One ounce: Loaf, small tire, zip
  • One pound: Bowl, California roll, notebook

Law enforcement 

Police officers or other law enforcement agents may be referred to using slang terms such as:

  • 5/0
  • Po-Po
  • Feds
  • Narcos

Resources:

  1. Department of Behavioral Healthcare. (2015). A Parent’s Guide: Drug Slang. BHDDH. Retrieved from
  2. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2018). Slang Terms and Code Words: A Reference for Law Enforcement Personnel. DEA. Retrieved from
  3. Patterson, E. (Updated 2023). Common Street Names for Drugs. American Addiction Centers. Retrieved from
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Reviewed 2023). The Drug Overdose Epidemic: Behind the Numbers. CDC. Retrieved from

Activity History - Last updated: 17 July 2024, Published date:


Reviewer

Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan is a mental health counselor who works alongside individuals of all backgrounds struggling with eating disorders. Morgan is freelance mental health and creative writer who regularly contributes to publications including, Psychology Today.

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 25 March 2024 and last checked on 17 July 2024

Medically reviewed by
Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan Blair

Reviewer

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