To avoid getting in trouble with the law, at school and at home, teens often use slang or street names to talk about drugs in secret. If you hear your teen using any of these slang terms, it may indicate they’re using them. It’s important to identify drug use early and take action before their drug abuse turns into an addiction.
Deciphering Drug Slang
Loved ones of a teen often find themselves playing detective, trying to crack the code to teen behavior, emotions or texting terms. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, the detective work only gets harder because teens are often purposefully covering their tracks. What looks like a soda can may actually be a hiding place for marijuana. When they talk about getting some “brown sugar,” do they mean the baking supply or heroin? Drug slang allows teens to talk about drugs openly without raising any red flags at school or at home.
If you see or even think your teen may be using drugs, staying educated on the latest slang is essential to catch the substance abuse problem early. And if it does turn out your teen has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, this early detection will play a key role in getting them the help they need as quickly as possible. Here are some of the most common terms used for popular drugs of abuse.
Intended to help kids with attention disorders, Adderall is now the poster child of prescription drug abuse among teens. Adderall is also among the most popular study aid drugs, which teens seek out to increase their focus and energy levels on exam days and for all-night study sessions. In recent years, it’s also been growing in popularity at parties.
In 2019, approximately 3.9% of high school seniors in the U.S. used Adderall, with many of these kids getting it from their doctors. In some cases, young people simply know where to buy Adderall on the street (i.e. buying it from a dealer or “trader”) or where to score it from a friend or family member. Nearly 42% of high schoolers say it’s easy to obtain Adderall or similar stimulants.
Other names for Adderall include:
- Black Beauties
- Pep Pills
- Study Buddies
- Smart Pills
Marketed as “bath salts” or cleaning chemicals to circumvent drug laws, these are synthetic over-the-counter powders with a powerful amphetamine-like stimulating effect. Bath salts have become popular through word of mouth amongst teens and are also available in gas stations and convenience stores.
It didn’t take long for them to become a national issue, as they sent thousands of young people to the hospital with scary and sometimes irreversible side effects — although treatment options for this dangerous substance are available. In 2013, nearly 23,000 ER visits in the U.S. were related to bath salts.
Other names for bath salts are often variants of different brand names, which include:
- Cloud 9
- Vanilla Sky
- White Lightning
- Meow Meow
- Pure Ivory
- Blue Silk
- Lunar Wave
- Wicked X
One of the most notorious illicit drugs, cocaine is a white powder that causes a short burst of energy and euphoria when snorted, smoked or injected. Cocaine highs fade quickly and leave users craving another hit, often turning casual teen cocaine abuse into a lasting addiction.
Approximately 3.8% of 12th graders and just over 1% of 8th graders in the U.S. have tried cocaine at least once.
Cocaine street names include:
- Nose Candy
Teens have taken to “robotripping,” a woozy type of high caused by drinking cough syrup. The active ingredient in several major cough syrups, dextromethorphan (or DXM), is responsible for the intoxicating effects — and even a chemical dependency, in some cases. Codeine cough syrups, which are even more potent, were recently taken off the shelves because of how dangerous they are, but teens can still get them from somebody with a prescription.
More than 2.5% of high school seniors and 3.2% of 8th graders report past-year misuse of cough medicine.
Cough syrup and DXM street names include:
- Red Devils
- Poor Man’s Ecstasy
- Orange Crush
- Triple C
- Drank, Purple Drank or Sizzurp (combining cough syrup with soda)
Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a stimulant that’s nearly three times as powerful as cocaine with a high that lasts for hours followed by a debilitating comedown (or “crash”) and, for those looking to get clean, a difficult drug detox.
Meth addiction can occur after the first use and can contribute to many other serious health problems. Surveys have shown that one in 33 teens in the U.S. are experimenting with the drug, starting at an average age of 12 and a quarter of teens say it would be easy to score meth.
Crystal meth street names include:
Ecstasy has become the go-to club drug for young people and is often used at parties, nightclubs, concerts and music festivals. Ecstasy — which is the chemical MDMA, often mixed with other ingredients — causes a rush of dopamine (a chemical that regulates happiness and related sensations) in the brain, and is known to make users feel more connected to each other.
In 2019, 3.3% of high school seniors reported ever taking the drug. Along with the many side effects of ecstasy (e.g. dehydration, impaired judgment, post-use depression), teens who take ecstasy are vulnerable to countless untold risks depending on what the drug is combined (or “cut”) with. Only 25–30% of ecstasy pills are pure MDMA — the rest are cut with everything from caffeine to meth.
Ecstasy slang includes:
- Hug Drug
- Love Drug
- Lover’s Speed
- Moon Rocks
- Happy Pill
- Dancing Shoes
- Scooby Snacks
Heroin goes by many names. Once it enters the body, heroin blocks the pain receptors in the brain, inducing a numb, euphoric state for a period of hours. This intensely addictive drug is typically used by injection with a needle.
In 2019, only around 0.6% of high school seniors have tried heroin, but each teen who experiments with the drug is at risk for the drug’s many serious side effects. Between 2002 and 2013, heroin use in the U.S. jumped 63%. In 2015, an estimated 21,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year and an estimated 6,000 adolescents had a teen heroin addiction in 2014.
Heroin street names include:
- China White
- Black Tar
- Big H
- Brown Sugar
- Mexican Brown
One of the most common ways that teens experiment with getting high is by breathing in gas, cleaners, markers and other household objects with noxious fumes. These types of items are referred to as inhalants. When a teen uses an inhalant, they will often empty some of the contents onto a rag or into a plastic bag, and then hold it to their face and breathe in. This is called huffing.
In a 2019 survey, 5.3% of U.S. high school seniors and nearly 10% of 8th graders reported ever trying inhalants. Depending on the chemical they use, huffing will usually cause lightheadedness and a very brief feeling of euphoria. Inhalants can also do serious damage to the brain. Regular use can lead to heart damage and other major health problems.
Inhalant street names include:
- Laughing Gas
- Moon Gas
- Air Blast
- Hippie Crack
- Poor Man’s Pot
Created as a veterinary anesthetic, ketamine is a colorless liquid or white powder that has a tranquilizing effect and causes both breathing and the heart rate to slow down. This can send users into a “K-hole,” where it becomes difficult to move. Teens use ketamine for a detached, out-of-body experience, and it’s become a common date rape drug for the same reason. In the past year, less than 1% of 12th graders in the U.S. used ketamine.
Ketamine street names include:
- Special K
- Vitamin K
- Green K
- Super C
- Super Acid
- Special La Coke
- Kit Kat
- Cat Valium
- Honey Oil
This infamous psychedelic drug known for its 12-hour “trip” full of hallucinations has been popular with teens since the 1960s. LSD is typically sold on small squares of paper similar to postage stamps or absorbed into sugar cubes, which are then ingested. In its most basic form, LSD is a clear, odorless liquid. Last year, 3.6% of high schoolers took acid, and nearly 10% of adults report experimenting with LSD in their lifetimes.
LSD street names include:
- Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
- California Sunshine
- Yellow Sunshine
- Window Pane
- Battery Acid
- Looney Toons
The green, pungent leaves of the cannabis plant — known as “marijuana,” “weed” and a many other names — maintain a stronghold as the most popular drug among U.S. teens. When smoked, marijuana releases THC, a potent psychoactive chemical. This makes the user feel relaxed, heightens their senses and has a mild hallucinogenic effect. It can also cause paranoia and impaired motor function.
Nearly 36% of 12th graders and 12% of 8th graders reported using it in the last year. The earlier they start using, the bigger the drug’s impact on their brain’s development.
Slang names for marijuana include:
- Mary Jane
- Purple Haze
Psychedelic mushrooms can closely resemble the mushrooms used in cooking and are grown in a similar way. Unlike mushrooms used for cooking, there are nearly 200 species of mushrooms that contain psilocybin, a mind-altering chemical. Teens may trip on psilocybin mushrooms much like they would on LSD — eating them can lead to an altered sense of space and time, hallucinations and euphoria, along with nausea and panic attacks.
While under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, teens can forget where they are and act out in ways they normally wouldn’t. Nearly 7% of 12th graders report using hallucinogens like mushrooms.
Street names for mushrooms include:
- Magic Mushrooms
- Blue Meanies
- Liberty Caps
Oxycodone, the generic name for the brand name OxyContin, is a narcotic painkiller prescribed in slow-release pills that work over a period of 12 hours. The drug has a high risk for abuse and dependence. Although the tablets are slow-release, teens crush them into a powder and snort them, releasing the full amount and potency of the drug all at once. To counteract the growing popularity of the drug, in 2013, the FDA approved a variant that couldn’t be crushed into powder.
The drug remains a danger to teens, and as many as 1.7% of high school seniors admit to using Oxycontin specifically in 2019, down from a high of 5.5% in 2005. Another 3% report using narcotics which includes other opioid drugs similar to OxyContin. Many people who become addicted to oxycodone move to using heroin, as heroin delivers a similar feeling and is often cheaper and easier to obtain.
OxyContin street names include:
- Oxy 80s
- Hillbilly Heroin
Ritalin is a slightly less common, but equally dangerous relative of the drug Adderall. Teens abuse it as a study aid drug to get an edge when writing papers and cramming for tests. It’s most commonly prescribed for teens with ADHD. Most teens get their Ritalin from siblings, classmates or from their doctors. A 2019 report revealed that just over 1% of high school seniors abused Ritalin.
In addition to helping them with school, some may use the drug to lose weight. Once they begin taking the drug though, the risk of addiction is extremely high. Overdoses, along with several other serious health problems, are not uncommon.
Ritalin street names include:
- Vitamin R
- Diet Coke
- Kiddie Cocaine
- Kiddie Coke
- Kibbles and Bits
- Poor Man’s Cocaine
Similar to bath salts, a number of companies began selling synthetic marijuana in the 2000s. Packaged in small, colorful wrapping and given catchy names, these products bypassed drug laws by using a mishmash of legal chemicals and by being sold as “herbal incense.” When smoked, the high from these chemicals mimics the high of marijuana.
In 2019, 3.3% of high schools seniors used it. In some cases — after just a single use — synthetic marijuana side effects have led to serious health issues or even death. The U.S. government has steadily been cracking down on stores that sell these products.
Slang and brand names for synthetic marijuana include:
- K2 Drug
- K3 Drug
- Black Mamba
- Yucatan Fire
- Bombay Blue
- Solar Flare
Vicodin is another brand-name prescription narcotic. This powerful painkiller is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and in 2014, the DEA reclassified it from a schedule III to a schedule II drug due to its widespread misuse and potential for addiction.
Vicodin street names include:
- Idiot Pills
Curious teens may abuse the anti-anxiety medication Xanax or the similar drugs Valium, Klonopin and Ativan — and feel drowsy and out of it, with very few so-called “fun” side effects. But once they start taking it, it can be difficult to stop. The more they use, the greater their risk of serious side effects, like twitching, depression and seizures. Teens who mix Xanax with alcohol or other drugs are especially at risk.
Drug slang for Xanax include:
- Zanbars or Xanbars
- Blue Footballs
- School Bus
- Bicycle Parts
- Yellow Boys
- White Boys
- White Girls
This dissociative anesthetic drug drives users into disorientation and causes a loss of bodily and mental control. Not only can PCP lead to mental health issues such as severe depression, but it can cause psychosis. In fact, many tragic suicides, murders and accidental deaths have been attributed to PCP use. Though PCP is not as common as drugs like cocaine, thousands of American teenagers put themselves at risk by using this substance. In 2019, 1% of 12th graders reported using PCP.
PCP street names include:
- Angel dust
- Rocket fuel
- Love boat
- Embalming fluid
- Wet (a marijuana joint dipped in PCP)
Does Your Child Need Drug or Alcohol Treatment?
If you notice signs of addiction, and you hear your teen and their friends use some of this slang, they may have a drug abuse or drug addiction problem. This realization can be jarring — many parents feel shocked, confused, embarrassed or try to downplay the problem, calling it “normal.”
Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing or the result of bad parenting — and recovery requires professional drug treatment. The longer an addiction goes untreated, the more difficult treatment becomes.
It’s ok to be afraid and uncertain of what to do next. The social stigma of drug addiction can make it feel even more difficult to take action. We recommend speaking to a medical or treatment professional, like your family doctor or contacting us. Our intake coordinators can answer any questions you may have and help you find teen rehab facilities if you decide inpatient or outpatient rehab are right for your family.
All conversations are free and confidential, with no strings attached. We’re here to help — take the first step by giving us a call today.
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Hitti, Miranda. “1 in 33 Teens Admit Trying Meth.” CBS News, September 19, 2007. Accessed June 16, 2020.
Merlan, Anna. “Don’t Panic, But There’s Probably Meth in Your Ecstasy and De-Wormer In Your Cocaine.” Dallas Observer, March 6, 2012. Accessed June 16, 2020.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Stats & Trends in Teen Drug Use with Interactive Chart.” Accessed June 2, 2020.
Leonard, Kimberly. “Adderall Still Abused by Many Teens, Survey Shows.” US News & World Report, December 16, 2015. Accessed June 16, 2020.
Preidt, Robert. “‘Bath Salts’ Drugs Led to 23,000 ER Visits in One Year: U.S. Report.” HealthDay, September 17, 2013. Accessed June 16, 2020.
Jones, Christopher; Logan, Joseph; Gladden, R. Matthew; Bohm, Michele. “Vital Signs: Demographic and Substance Use Trends Among Heroin Users — United States, 2002–2013.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 10, 2015. Accessed June 16, 2020.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures.” 2016. Accessed June 16, 2020.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.” Accessed June 16, 2020.
Arnold, Chris. “Teen Abuse of Painkiller OxyContin on the Rise.” National Public Radio, December 19, 2005. Accessed June 16, 2020.
Koba, Mark. “Deadly Epidemic: Prescription Drug Overdoses.” USA TODAY, July 28, 2013. Accessed June 16, 2020.
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