Slang and Jargon

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Slang terms in the drug subculture are constantly changing, as its ethnic, social, and demographic composition changes and as new illicit drugs roll in and roll out with the tides of fashion, including geographical variations. Yet certain terms show a remarkable durability such as some of those for heroin (trademarked Heroin in Germany, 1898)a narcotic that has been a staple street anodyne since the early 1900s. Other drug-related terms have come into the mainstream to become a permanent part of the English language, e.g., yen, hooked, pad, spaced out, high, and hip. Many of the following words had been in use during much of the twentieth century (a few antiques of sociological or historical interest are included) and some are the product of the 1980s and 1990s. Origins, if known, are given.

a amphetamines, a stimulant

a-bomb, bomb LSD, a hallucinogen

acid [a shortening of d -lysergic acid diethylamide; since about 1960] LSD

Adam [originally named to connote a primordial man in a state of innocence] MDMA, a mild hallucinogen. See ecstasy below

amp [from ampule the drug is sold in small glass ampules, which are broken open and the contents inhaled] amyl nitrite, a dilator of small blood vessels and used in medicine for angina pains; used illicitly to intensify orgasm or for the stimulation effect

amps amphetamines

angel dust [since the 1970s] phencyclidine (a brand name is Sernyl), an anesthetic used on animals but originally on humans; discontinued because of bizarre mental effects. See PCP below

bagging taking an inhalant by breathing it from a bag

base the pure alkaloid of cocaine that has been extracted from the salt (cocaine hydrochloride), in the form of a hard white crust or rock. See crack and rock below

batu crystalline methamphetamine

beamed up [from "Beam me up, Scotty," an expression used in the television series Star Trek ; Scotty is also a term for crack cocaine; on a mission means looking for crack] intoxicated by crack

beamer a crack addict

beans dextroamphetamines

beast LSD

beat [from the idea of beating cheatingsomeone] a bogus or mislabeled drug or a substance resembling a certain drug and sold as that drug (soap chips as crack ; methamphetamine or baking soda as cocaine; catnip as marijuana; PCP as LSD, mescaline, or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)the active principle of marijuana; procaine as cocaine)

big H heroin

big C cocaine

blank nonpsychoactive powder sold as a drug

black beauties amphetamines

black tar heroin

blast a drag of crack smoke from a pipe

blotter [doses of the drug are dripped on a sheet of blotter paper for sale] LSD

blow (1) to sniff a drug (2) cocaine (3) to smoke marijuana ("blow a stick ")

blue heavens methaqualone (a sedative) pills

bone a marijuana cigarette; a joint

boom marijuana

boomers hallucinogenic mushrooms containing psilocybin

booze alcohol

bottles vials or small containers for selling crack

boy heroin

breakfast cereal ketamine. See K below

brown heroin from Mexico diluted with brown milk sugar (lactose), which is less pure than China white . Also called Mexican mud

brown sugar heroin

buds [from the appearance] marijuana or sinsemilla (a hybrid variety of marijuana; see sinse ); a quantity for sale consisting mainly of the more potent flowering tops of the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa )

bump (1) cocaine. (2) crack. (3) fake crack. (4) hit of ketamine. See K below.

bush [from the righteous bush ] marijuana

bust [from 1930s Harlem slang for a police raid, perhaps a shortening of busting in ] arrest

button [from the shape of the appendages to the peyote cactus containing mescaline] peyote or San Pedro cactus

buzz, buzzed [from buzz, onomatopoeic equivalent of subjective feeling; the onset of the drug sometimes causes buzzing in the ears] (1) high on marijuana. (2) an inferior high from heroin

C cocaine

candy cocaine

caps hallucinogenic mushrooms

chalk [from the appearance] crystal methamphetamine or cocaine

Charlie cocaine

chasing the dragon [from a Chinese expression for inhaling fumes of heroin after heating it; the melting drug resembles a wriggling snake or dragon] (1) inhaling heroin fumes after the substance is heated on a piece of tinfoil. (2) smoking a mixture of crack and heroin

cheba marijuana

China white [from China (Indochina) white or white stuff = heroin; since the 1970s] (1) relatively pure heroin from Southeast Asia. (2) analogs of fentanyl (Sublimaze), an opioid more potent than heroin and sold on the street as China white

chipping, to chippy using heroin occasionally, avoiding addiction

chronic marijuana

cocoa puff [pun on the name of a chocolate-flavored breakfast cereal] a joint , to which cocaine has been added

coke cocaine

cola [a word play on coke, cocaine, and Coca-Cola, cocaine is derived from the coca (not the kola) plant] cocaine

cold turkey [from the gooseflesh that is part of abrupt withdrawal] by extension, ending a drug habit without medicinal or professional help, "going cold turkey"

coming down [from a high ] losing the effects of a drug, all the way down to crashing

connect [from the connection, a drug pusher] cocaine importer or wholesaler, who fronts (consigns) cocaine to a supplier, who in turn distributes to a street retailer. See dealing, mule, runner, steerer, touting

cop [from British slang of the 1700s; to obtain, to steal, to buy; since the 1890s] to get or purchase illicit drugs

cop a buzz get high

copping zone an area where drugs are sold

crack [from the crackling sound when smoked in a pipe] pebbles of cocaine base that are smoked

crack house house or apartment (sometimes, an abandoned building) where crack -cocaine is sold and smoked on the premises 24/7twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week

crank crystal methamphetamine

crank lite [from crank, because of the amphetamine-like stimulant effect + lite, meaning lighter, as in low-alcohol beer] ephedrine, a stimulant used in nonprescription medicines as a decongestant, which is lighter than amphetamines

crash, crashing to come all the way down from a drug high

cross roads [from the scored cross on the tablets] amphetamines

crystal [in powder form] methamphetamine or cocaine

crystal supergrass marijuana with PCP

cut to add adulterants to a drugextending it to make more money in selling it (some adulterants are relatively harmless, some toxic)

date rape drug Rohypnol, called roofies. Women at parties may have this tasteless, odorless drug slipped into their drink. After they lose consciousness, they may be raped and later have no memory of the incident.

deadeye blank stare produced by an overdose of phencyclidine (PCP ) or other drug

dealing [from dealer, a person who sells drugs; since the 1920s] selling drugs of all kinds

designer drugs synthetic compounds or drug analogs that produce the effects of certain regulated drugs but have slight differences in chemical composition to evade the regulatory law; e.g., analogs of fentanyl (China white ); analogs of amphetamine and methamphetamine such as MDA, MDMA (ecstasy ), TMA, MMDA, MDE (Eve ), MBDB; and toxic byproducts of the synthetic opiate meperidine (Demerol) such as MPTP and MPPP

dexies dextroamphetamines

ditch veins on the inside of the arm at the elbow, a site for injecting heroin. See tracks below

do drugs take or use illicit drugs

doobie a marijuana cigarette; a joint

dope [from Dutch doop, sauce (from dopen, to dip). In the late nineteenth century, the term came to be applied to opium, a black gum shaped into pellets and smoked in a pipe] (1) drugs (2) marijuana (3) heroin and other illicit drugs (4) intoxicating fumes of airplane fuel, glue (5) Coca-Cola

dope fiend [opprobrious term for narcotic and illicit drug users since the early 1900s; the term is used ironically by drug users to defy the social stigma] drug user, drug abuser, drug addict

dosing slipping a hallucinogenic drug into punch, brownies, etc., so that it will unwittingly be consumed by others

drag to draw or pull on smoke from a cigarette, pipe, or other item, "to take a drag"; to convey that smoke into one's throat and lungs. See toke below

drop to swallow LSD or a pill

dugie, doojee [phonetic] heroin

dust PCP

dusting (1) mixing either cocaine with tobacco in a cigarette or mixing heroin or opium with marijuana or hashish in a joint. (2) smoking PCP

ecstasy, extacy [from the euphoria, heightened sensuality, intensified sexual desire attributed to the drug experience] MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), a mildly hallucinogenic drug synthesized from methamphetamine and resembling mescaline and LSD in chemical structure

eightball an eighth of an ounce of cocaine

elephant tranquilizer PCP

Emilio [as in Emilio and Maria (Mary), from Mary Jane ] marijuana

energize me give me some crack

equalizer pebbles of crack -cocaine

Eve [variant of Adam , MDMA or ecstasy ] MDE, a mild hallucinogen derived from amphetamine. Adam and Eve is a compound of MDMA + MDE = MDEA (n-ethyl-MDA or 3, 4, methylene + dioxy-N-ethylamphetamine)

exing taking ecstasy

fix (1) a needed drug dose to hold off withdrawal (2) a shot of heroin. See shoot below

flake [from the appearance] (1) cocaine hydrochloride (2) the sediment off a rock or chunk of cocaine

Flying Saucers [trade name] hallucinogenic seeds of a variety of morning glory

forget pill Rohypnol. See roofies below

freebase [the psychoactive alkaloid, the base , has been freed or extracted from the cocaine hydrochloride] (1) crystals of pure cocaine. (2) to prepare the base ; to smoke it

frost freak one who inhales the fumes of Freon, a coolant gas, to get high

funky green luggage a supply of marijuana in one's baggage

G gamma-hydroxybutyrate. See GHB below

GHB gamma-hydroxybutyrate; clear liquid, white powder, tablet, or capsule often combined with alcohol; used mainly by adolescents and young adults, often at nightclubs and raves . GHB is usually abused either for its intoxicating/sedative/euphoriant effects or for its growth hormone-releasing effects, which can build muscles.

gangster marijuana

ganja [from gaja, Hindi word for India's potent marijuana, consisting of the flowering tops and leaves of the hemp plant, where most of the psychoactive resin is concentrated] marijuana

garbage can drug user who takes anything, everything, combinations

Georgia gamma-hydroxybutyrate. See GHB below

ghost LSD

girl cocaine

glass crystalline methamphetamine

gluey one who inhales glue fumes

goofing [from goofballs = barbiturates, and from goof, to act silly, stupidly, heedlessly] under the influence of barbiturates

grass marijuana chopped up line for smoking, which looks like dried grass

green [harvested hemp leaves that are not properly cured; also, the lower leaves of the hemp plant, which contain a smaller proportion of the psychoactive resin] (1) marijuana of low potency, e.g., Chicago green. (2) ketamine, an anesthetic similar to phencyclidine (PCP ) but milder in its effects, which is sprinkled on parsley or marijuana and smoked

grievous bodily harm gamma-hydroxybutyrate. See GHB above

H heroin; also Big H

hash, hashish the concentrated resin of the marijuana plant, containing a high percentage of the active principle, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

hash oil liquid extracted from hashish , providing a more potent dose of the active principle and more easily transported in vials. It produces more sedation and deeper states of reverie than does hashish

Henry, Harry heroin

herb [used to connote a benign natural substance] marijuana

herbal ecstasy herbal combinations marketed as a "natural high" that can be legally purchased over the counter in drug stores, music stores, and other shops. The active ingredients include caffeine and ephedrine.

high [from the sense of euphoria, being above it all, detached from unpleasant reality] intoxicated by a drug

hip [from laying (on) the hip, to smoke opiumthe addict lay on his side on a pad in an opium den hence an opium user and then extended to illicit drug users. In the alienated subculture of the jazz scene of the 1930s and 1940s, using drugs was expected and made one keenly informed or hip originally hep until "squares" adopted the word] sophisticated, knowing, "in"; possessing taste, knowledge, awareness of the newest, and a lifestyle superior to that of conventional people

hit (1) an injection of a narcotic. (2) a snort of cocaine. (3) a drag from a crack pipe. (4) a toke of marijuana. (5) to adulterate (cut ) a drug. (6) a dose of LSD

hog [from its original use as a veterinary anesthetic] phencyclidine (PCP )

home boy gamma-hydroxybutyrate. See GHB above

hooch alcohol

horse heroin

hot shot a potent dose of heroin sufficient to kill; heroin laced with cyanide

huff to inhale ordinary household products to get high. Users huff directly from the container or from inhalant-soaked rags, socks, or rolls of toilet paper. Inhalants include model airplane glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, hair spray, gasoline, the propellant in aerosol whipped cream, spray paint, fabric protector, air conditioner fluid (freon), cooking spray and correction fluid.

ice extremely pure and addictive smokable form of crystalline methamphetamine

J, jay [from joint ] a marijuana cigarette

jelly babies or beans amphetamine pills

joint [from joint as part of paraphernalia for injecting narcoticsparticularly the needle; since the 1920s] a marijuana cigarette

jonesing [after John Jones, the British physician who first described opiate withdrawal in 1700] withdrawal from addiction; by extension, craving any drug

juice steroids

Julio marijuana. See Emilio and Mary Jane

junk [from junker, a pusher or peddler; since the 1920s. Also possibly from a word for opium a play on junk, a Chinese boatwhich was later extended to all narcotics] heroin (which is derived from opium)

K, super K, special K, Vitamin K ketamine, an anesthetic similar in structure to PCP . First synthesized by a pharmaceutical company in the early 1960s, powdered ketamine emerged as a recreational drug in the 1970s. It became Vitamin K in the underground club scene in the 1980s and Special K in the 1990s rave scene.

keester plant [from keester, rump, and plant, to place] drugs in a rubber container or condom concealed in the rectum

Ketaject, Ketalar ketamine. See K above

kick the gong (around) to smoke opium (especially in a Chinese opium den )

kick the habit [related to kick it out to suffer withdrawal symptoms, which include muscle spasms in the legs and kicking movements from hyperactive reflexes in the spinal cord] (1) abrupt withdrawal from a drug to which one is addicted. (2) to conquer drug dependence

kif marijuana

killer joints marijuana with PCP

kind buds potent marijuana. See buds above

LA coke ketamine. See K above

la roche Rohypnol. See roofies below

lady cocaine

laughing gas nitrous oxide

lid [from the now obsolete practice of selling a measure of marijuana in a pipe tobacco tin] an ounce of marijuana, usually sold in a plastic bag

line (1) a thin stream of cocaine on a mirror or other smooth surface, which is sniffed through a quill a rolled matchbook cover, tube, straw, or tightly rolled dollar bill, etc. (2) a measure of cocaine for sale

liquid ecstasy gamma-hydroxybutyrate. See GHB above

luding out [from ludes, short for Quaaludes (a brand name for methaqualone, an addictive sedative)] taking methaqualone.

Lyle [from lysergic acid] LSD

magic mushrooms hallucinogenic mushrooms

mainline [from main line, a major rail route; since the 1920s] (1) the large vein in the arm; the most accessible vein. (2) v. to inject morphine, heroin, or cocaine into any vein

Mary Jane, MJ, Aunt Mary marijuana

MDMA ecstasy

meth methamphetamine

microdot acid

Mexican brown marijuana from Mexico

Mexican mud brown heroin from Mexico. See brown above

mind altering the claimed mental effects of hallucinogenic drugsaltered or intensified states of perception

mind expansion [related to psychedelic, mindmanifesting; a descriptive term for hallucinogenic drugs coined in the 1960s] the claimed mind-altering effects of hallucinogenic drugs, including greater spirituality, enhanced self-awareness, and increased sensitivity to music, art, and nature; also synesthesiacross-sensations, such as "seeing" music or "hearing" colors

Miss Emma morphine

monkey on one's back desperate desire for drugs; addiction; craving

moon [from the shape of slices of the bud of the peyote cactus] peyote

moonrock heroin mixed with crack for smoking

Moroccan candy [ majoun (Arabic) is candy laced with hashish , sold in Morocco, Afghanistan] hashish. See hash above

mud heroin

mule (1) a low-level drug smuggler from Latin America; mules often swallow a condom filled with cocaine to be delivered at a destinationa dangerous practice called bodypacking. (2) heroin

new Ecstasy ketamine. See K above

night train PCP

nose candy cocaine

opium den [from den, an animal's lair. The term was coined by Westerners in nineteenth-century China, to have lurid connotations] a place where opium is smoked. Chinese laborers brought the practice of smoking opium to America during the gold rush of 1849 and the 1850s and the building of the transcontinental railroad

ozone PCP

pad [from the mats in opium dens on which the smokers reclined and slept. In the 1930s, Harlem apartments where marijuana was sold and smoked while reclining on couches or mattresses were called tea pads ] (1) private place for taking drugs; a variant is crash pad , a place for recovering from the effects of a methamphetamine run (period of extended use); the user collapses (crashes ) into an exhausted sleep. (2) by extension, since the 1950s, any dwelling place, room, apartment

PCP [from PeaCe Pill ] phencyclidine (brand name Sernyl), a veterinary anesthetic that induces bizarre mental states in humans

peace pill PCP

pearls [medical nickname] amyl nitrite ampules

Persian white fentanyl. See China white above

p-funk, p-dope [ p stands for pure] fentanyl. See >China white above

PG paregoric, a traditional diarrhea remedy containing opium.

piece hashish, a form of marijuana. See hash above

pill popping [from popping something into one's mouth] promiscuous use of amphetamine and barbiturate pills or capsules. One who does this is a popper and may be a garbage can

pit veins on the inside of the arm at the elbow, a main site for injecting heroin and the place to look for tracks . See ditch above

pop to inject. See shoot below

poppers [the glass ampule is popped open and the contents inhaled] amyl nitrite ampules

pot [from potaguaya, a Mexican-Indian word for marijuana] marijuana

psychedelic heroin ketamine. See K above

pusher [extension from pusher a person who circulates counterfeit money; since the 1920s] drug seller, drug dealer. See dealing above

quas, quacks [from Quaalude, a brand name of methaqualone] methaqualone pills, an addictive sedative

Raoul cocaine

rave an all-night underground party, usually frequented by teens and college students. Raves are characterized by techno music and often designer drugs, especially Ecstasy.

reds, red birds [also called red devils, red jackets, red capsfrom the color of the capsules] Seconal (a brand of secobarbital) capsules

reefer [from grifa, a Mexican-Spanish word for marijuana] (1) a marijuana cigarette. (2) marijuana

rhoids steroids

rib Rohypnol. See roofies below

righteous bush marijuana plant

ringer [from the idea of "hearing bells"; bells is a term for crack ] powerful effect from a hit of crack

roach [from its resemblance to a cockroach] the butt (end) of a marijuana cigarette

rock [from the appearance](1) large crystals or a chunk of pure cocaine hydrochloride. (2) crack . See base above

rocket fuel PCP

roofies, rophies, ruffies, roach, R2, roofenol Rohypnol, the brand name for the powerful sedative flunitrazepam. The pills are often used in combination with alcohol and other drugs.

rope Rohypnol. See roofies above

runner a messenger (often a juvenile) who delivers drugs from the seller to the buyer (not to be confused with a drug runner, a smuggler)

rush the quick initial onset of orgasmic sensationsof warmth, euphoria, and relaxation after injecting or inhaling heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine

scag heroin

schoolboy (1) codeine, a derivative of opium with relatively low potency, used as a cough suppressant and analgesic. (2) morphine

Scotty crack-cocaine. See beamed up above

script prescription for a drug, often forged by addicts

script doctor a physician who will provide a drug prescription for a priceor one who is deceived into providing one

shabu crystalline methamphetamine

shake [the mixture is made by shaking the drug and the adulterant] (1) cocaine adulterated (cut ) with a harmless substance such as mannitol. (2) loose marijuana left at the bottom of a bag that held a pressed block of marijuana.

sheet (acid) [from decorated blotter paper containing doses of the drug] LSD

shit heroin

shoot inject a drug; also shoot up a fix or a shot (usually of heroin)

shooting gallery place where heroin addicts shoot up and share needles and other works (paraphernalia)

shoot the breeze inhale nitrous oxide (called laughing gas ).

shrooming high on hallucinogenic mushrooms shrooms hallucinogenic mushrooms

Sid a play on the s-d sound of LSD

sinse [from sinsemilla, without seeds] a hybrid variety of marijuana; also called ses

skin popping [from pop , to inject] injecting heroin or any psychoactive drug subcutaneously (rather than into a vein), a practice of casual (chippy ) users.

skunk marijuana

smack [perhaps from shmek, Yiddish word for sniff, whiff, pinch of snuff; since the 1910s, when heroin users sniffed the drug; in the 1920s and 1930s, some Jewish mobsters were involved in heroin trafficking] heroin

smoke marijuana

snappers [the ampule containing the drug is snapped open] amyl nitrite capsules

snob [from the idea of an eliteexpensivedrug] cocaine.

snop marijuana

snort to sniff a drug

snow [from the appearance; also, the drug is a topical anesthetic and numbs the mucous membranes] cocaine hydrochloride.

snowbirds cocaine

soapers [from Sopor, the brand name of a sedative, now taken off the market] methaqualone pills

space basing or space blasting smoking a mixture of crack and phencyclidine (PCP )

speed (1) amphetamines (2) caffeine pills (3) diet pills

speedball [first used by GIs during the Korean War] injected mixture of heroin and cocaine.

splif a fat marijuana cigarette

spook heroin

squirrel a mixture of PCP and marijuana sprinkled with cocaine and smoked

stash extension of stash, hobo argot for hiding place; since the 1800s (1) hiding place for drugs. (2) a supply of drugs. (3) v. to hide drugs

steerer member of a cocaine or heroin crew who directs people to the seller

stepped on adulterated or cut

stick a marijuana cigarette

street drugs drugs purchased from sellers on the street; hence, of dubious quality

strung out severely addicted

sugar cubes LSD

sunshine [from the type sold as an orange-colored tablet] LSD

super grass [the powder is sometimes mixed with parsley or marijuana and smoked] ketamine. See green .

tabs [from tablet, a form in which the drug is sold] LSD

tea marijuana

Thai stick potent marijuana from Thailand

thing (1) heroin. (2) pl. an addict's works the hypodermic needle (needle and syringe)

tic [from THC ] fake tetrahydrocannabinol

toke a drag on a marijuana cigarette

tooies [from Tuinal, a brand name for a preparation containing amobarbital and secobarbital] sedative capsules

toot (1) to sniff cocaine. (2) cocaine. (3) a binge, especially a drinking bout or spree (since the late 1700s)

touting (1) purchasing drugs for someone else. (2) advertising, hawking, drugs that one is selling

tracks a line of scabs and scars from frequent intravenous injections. See pit and ditch above

tripping [from trip, in the sense of a psychic "journey"] taking LSD

trips (1) LSD tablets (2) periods under the influence of various drugs, usually hallucinogens

turkey [from turkey, a jerk; or from a theatrical failure or flop] (1) a nonpsychoactive substance sold as a drug. (2) the seller of such phony substances

turn on take drugs, especially hallucinogens

ups, uppers amphetamines

V, Vs Valium (a brand name for diazepam, a tranquilizer) tablets

wasted [from waste, a street-gang term since the 1950s, meaning to kill, beat up, destroy] (1) severely addicted to the point of mental and physical depletion (2) extremely intoxicatedout of it, beyond caring

weed marijuana

whack (1) to adulterate heroin, cocaine, or other drugs. (2) an adulterant (3) phencyclidine (PCP ). (4) to kill

whiff [from the idea of smelling or shiffing] cocaine

white or white stuff heroin

white beanies amphetamines

white lady, white [from the color] cocaine

window pane [the drug is sometimes sold in a clear plastic square; also of a greater potency, providing a more intense experience and non-structured sensations"opening a window on reality"] LSD

wired (1) extremely intoxicated by cocaine. (2) anxious and jittery from stimulants (may be related to amped, a play on amphetamines and amperes)

woola [phonetic spelling] a joint containing a mixture of marijuana and crack

works equipment or paraphernalia for injecting drugs

X, the X, XTC [from ecstasy ] MDMA.

yellow jackets [from the color of the capsules] Nembutal brand of pentobarbital

yen [from English slang yen-yen, the opium habit, based on Cantonese in-yan (in, opium + yan, craving); since the 1800s] any strong craving

zenes [short for Thorazine, a brand name for chlorpromazine] tranquilizer pills

zombie (1) crack cocaine. (2) phencyclidine (PCP )

zooted up high on crack -cocaine

(See also: Argot ; Yippies )


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Richard Lingeman

Revised by Mary Carvlin