Slang and Nicknames for Drugs
Illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, and PCP are sometimes sold on the internet or by street dealers using nicknames or other intentionally confusing designations. They use these slang terms almost as a special code in the hopes of making the drugs less identifiable by search engines and DEA officials, and potentially more difficult to trace by law enforcement.
In 2016, 6.9% of 8th graders, 15.9% of 10th graders, and 24.4% of 12th graders reported using these drugs in the past month, and in 2015, 10.2% of adults aged 18 or older had used them.1,2
New designer drugs—or drugs intended to replicate the effects of other drugs such as ecstasy or marijuana—are appearing on the market in record numbers, offering consumers on the street and on the internet more options than ever before. Many of these synthetic variants are manufactured in illicit Asian or South American labs and sold over the internet using slang names or nicknames to avoid DEA detection and seizure.
The following are statistics of the prevalence of designer drugs:3,4
- In 2015, 0.9% of the population 19 to 30 years of age reported past-year use of synthetic cannabinoids.
- In 2015, 5.2% of 12th graders in the United States reported past-year use of synthetic cannabinoids.
- In 2015, 0.5% of the population 19 to 30 years of age reported past-year use of Khat, a stimulant similar to bath salts.
Substances are sold and trafficked every day under the guise of unusual names, and the danger of not knowing what you are using can be fatal.
Stimulants are a class of drugs that increase a person’s attention, energy, and alertness. Their pharmacologic effects on various neurotransmitter systems additionally increase blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate, which can each lead to adverse health complications. Taking too much cocaine, for instance, can lead to anger, as well as paranoia and other psychotic features, and physical issues such as seizures and cardiovascular injury.5
The most widely abused illicit stimulants are cocaine and methamphetamine, with 1.9% of people reporting past-month use of cocaine and 0.9% of people reporting past-month use of methamphetamine in 2015.6
Cocaine is known by many different nicknames, including:7
- Angel Powder.
- Baby Powder.
- Bernie’s Gold Dust.
- Death Valley.
- Happy Dust.
- King’s Habit.
- Lady Snow.
- Nose Candy.
- Oyster Stew.
- White Paint.
Designer drugs are a group of man-made drugs that have effects similar to some illegal substances but are themselves unregulated.8 Chemically, one type of designer stimulant drug—commonly marketed as “bath salts”—has similar effects to methamphetamine and MDMA/Molly.8
Bath salts are usually sold in packages labeled “jewelry cleaner,” “plant food,” or “phone cleaner” to avoid detection by the DEA or the police.4 Designer drugs are not regularly screened for during routine drug tests, which is one reason they have become a more popular drug of choice among active members of the military or with employees of other workplaces that mandate periodic toxicology screening.9
Bath salts are marketed as a cheap substitute for other stimulants such as meth and cocaine and are usually sold under a variety of “brands” and nicknames, including:7,8
- Blue Silk.
- Cloud 9.
- Lunar Wave.
- Vanilla Sky.
- Ivory Wave.
- Red Dove.
- Ocean Burst.
- Snow Leopard.
- White Dove.
- White Magic.
- White Knight.
- White Lightning.
Some of the most commonly abused prescription stimulants are Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin—in 2015, 6.4% of people reported abusing them.2,5
Various prescription amphetamines may be sold on the internet or on the street under names like:7
- Black and Whites.
- Black Mollies.
- Chicken Powder.
- Double Cross.
- French Blues.
- Little Bombs.
- Mini Beans.
- Wake Ups.
There are a number of drugs on the market containing synthetic cannabinoids that chemically resemble the psychoactive components of marijuana. However, because these lab-manufactured cannabinoids are, on average, more potent than regular marijuana, they could actually pose more danger to the user. Using these drugs can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, hallucinations, anxiety, and, in some cases, heart attack.5
In a study of 42 young male marijuana smokers, 91% reported that they were familiar with synthetic cannabinoid products, 50% said they had smoked synthetic cannabinoids in the past, and 24% reported current use. The reasons for using synthetic cannabinoids included avoiding positive drug test screenings and seeking a new high similar to marijuana.10
On the street, cannabinoids may be sold under names like:5,7
- Black Mamba.
- Bombay Blue.
- Fake Weed.
- Moon Rocks.
Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs
In 2015, 15.3% of people said that they had used hallucinogens in their lifetime and 1.8% reported that they had used hallucinogens in the past year.2 The most commonly used hallucinogens are LSD, mushrooms, peyote (mescaline), DMT, and ayahuasca (a hallucinogenic tea).11
Slang names for mescaline include:5
- Big Chief.
- Blue Caps.
- Media Luna.
- San Pedro.
Mushrooms are sometimes referred to by drug dealers as:7
- Pizza Toppings.
PCP nicknames include:7
- Alien Sex Fiend (when mixed with heroin).
- Angel Dust.
- Aurora Borealis.
- Butt Naked.
- Crazy Coke.
- Detroit Pink.
- Dummy Dust.
- Embalming Fluid.
- Leaky Leak.
- Lemon 714.
- Mad Man.
- Mean Green.
- Mint Weed.
- Monkey Dust.
- New Magic.
- Pig Killer.
- Red Devil.
Sedatives are prescription psychotherapeutic drugs typically taken to alleviate problems with sleep or anxiety. Sedative drugs such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Nembutal are widely used and misused—in 2015, 44.5% of the population reported using psychotherapeutics (including sedatives) in the past year and 7.1% reported misusing the drugs that year.2 Often, those people who abuse sedatives purchase them without a prescription. In those cases, the drugs are frequently known by nicknames that most people may not realize are associated with prescription sedative drugs.
Xanax, for instance, is sometimes sold illegally under slang names such as:7
- Bars or Handlebars.
- School Bus.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.
- UNODC Statistics. (2017). Synthetic Cannabinoids.
- UNODC Statistics. (2017). Miscellaneous NPS.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Commonly Abused Drugs Chart.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2017). Drug Slang Code Words.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What Are Synthetic Cathinones?
- Weaver, M.F., Hopper, J.A., & Gunderson, E.W. (2015). Designer Drugs 2015: Assessment and Management. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 10(1), 8.
- Gunderson, E.W., Haughey, H.M., Ait-Daoud, N., Joshi, A.S., & Hart, C.L. (2014). A Survey of Synthetic Cannabinoid Consumption by Current Cannabis Users. Substance Abuse: Official Publication of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse, 35(2), 184–189.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Common Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.