Slang and Jargon
Slang and Jargon
SLANG AND JARGON
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
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
beat [from the idea of beating —cheating—someone] 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
boomers hallucinogenic mushrooms containing psilocybin
bottles vials or small containers for selling crack
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
caps hallucinogenic mushrooms
chalk [from the appearance] crystal methamphetamine or 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
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
cocoa puff [pun on the name of a chocolate-flavored breakfast cereal] a joint , to which cocaine has been added
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 24/7—twenty-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 drug—extending 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
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
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.
garbage can drug user who takes anything, everything, combinations
Georgia gamma-hydroxybutyrate. See GHB below
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 opium—the 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
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 narcotics—particularly 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
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 boat—which 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
killer joints marijuana with PCP
kind buds potent marijuana. See buds above
LA coke ketamine. See K above
la roche Rohypnol. See roofies below
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
Mexican brown marijuana from Mexico
Mexican mud brown heroin from Mexico. See brown above
mind altering the claimed mental effects of hallucinogenic drugs—altered 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 synesthesia—cross-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
mule (1) a low-level drug smuggler from Latin America; mules often swallow a condom filled with cocaine to be delivered at a destination—a 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
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
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 caps—from 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
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 sensations—of warmth, euphoria, and relaxation after injecting or inhaling heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine
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 price—or 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
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.
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
snappers [the ampule containing the drug is snapped open] amyl nitrite capsules
snob [from the idea of an elite—expensive—drug] cocaine.
snort to sniff a drug
snow [from the appearance; also, the drug is a topical anesthetic and numbs the mucous membranes] cocaine hydrochloride.
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
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
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 intoxicated—out of it, beyond caring
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 )
Eisner, B. (1989). Ecstasy: The MDMA story. Berkeley: Ronin.
Hurst, G., & Hurst, H. (1981). The international drug scene. Wurzburg, Germany.
Indiana Prevention Resource Center. (2000). On-line dictionary of street drug slang, http://prcwwwserv.idap.indiana.edu:80/slang/home.html.
Julien, Robert M. (1992). A primer of drug action, 6th ed. New York: W. H. Freeman.
Lingeman, R. (1974). Drugs from a to z, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mencken, H. L. (1967). The American language, abridged with new material by Raven I. McDavid Jr. New York: Knopf.
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI), U.S. Department of Health &Human Services. (2000). http://www.health.org/.
Partnership for a Drug-Free America, (2000). Drug-free resource net, http://www.drugfreeamerica.org/
Partridge, Eric. (1961). A dictionary of the underworld. New York: Bonanza.
Seymour, R. B., & Smith, D. E. (1987). Guide to psycho-active drugs: An up-to-the minute reference to mind-altering substances. New York: Harrington Park Press.
Spears, R. A. (1986). The slang and jargon of drugs and drink. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (2000). http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/prevent/prevent.html.
Wentworth, H.&Flexner, S. B. (1968). The pocket dictionary of American slang. New York: Pocket Books.
Williams, Terry. (1989). The cocaine kids. New York: Addison-Wesley.
Revised by Mary Carvlin