The Parent’s Guide to Decoding Modern Drug Slang

Kerry Nenn
Calendar icon Last Updated: 07/15/2024
secret language of modern drug slang
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Understanding the Secret Language – Drug Slang

Navigating the world of parenting often means deciphering a secret code. Drug slang is one such language, evolving rapidly and filled with terms unfamiliar to many adults. Drug slang, with constantly evolving terms like “yayo” for cocaine, can be a daunting challenge. Understanding the lingo used by drug dealers can provide parents with crucial information to protect their children. 

Staying informed about the latest drug slang can be a valuable tool in identifying potential red flags and opening up conversations with your child about substance abuse.

If you overheard your teenager tell his friend he was “candy flipping,” would you be concerned? It sounds like he’s popping M&Ms or swapping candy bars with a buddy, right? Turns out the true meaning is much more concerning.

“Candy flipping” is slang for using Ecstasy (MDMA) and Acid (LSD) at the same time. Since using even one drug can be lethal, “candy flipping” is something that’s especially life-threatening.

That’s why the ability to decode modern drug slang is more important than ever for parents.

Are you or someone you know thinking about using a controlled substance, like prescription medication or an illegal drug? Even short-term use can be risky. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns it can lead to addiction, nasty withdrawal symptoms, and various health problems down the line.

Learning the Lingo of Modern Drug Slang

It’s common for drug users and drug dealers to use slang terms. This keeps friends and family in the dark about their drug use. It also helps conceal their activities from law enforcement.

buying drugs onlineOr at least that’s the hope.

Sometimes, the slang is based on the appearance of the drugs. Other terms come from the effects the drugs have on a person. And other times, the slang originates with the place the drugs came from.

But there are some terms that seem to have no logical reference whatsoever, which can make them particularly tough to decode.

Drug Enforcement Administration Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials put their ears to the ground, gathering information on the latest drug terminology. After extensive research, they put together a list of more than 2,300 common terms used in the drug culture. Each slang term refers to drug-related activities or to specific drugs.

No, you can’t learn them all, especially with new ones constantly coming to the scene. But you can be proactive by trying to familiarize yourself with some of the more common terms.

Recognizing these terms may help you spot drug-related behavior in your child. You can also listen for some of these terms in your teenager’s conversations or look for them in social media messages with their friends.


Now, let’s break down some of the most common drug-related slang terms.


Heroin is an illegal opioid. It comes in powder form, and while it can be used several different ways, it’s usually injected directly into a vein.

Slang terms used for heroin include:

  • Big H
  • Black Tar
  • Aunt Hazel
  • Antifreeze
  • Tootsie Roll
  • Chinese Buffet
  • Skunk
  • Thunder
  • Wings
  • Witch Hazel


Oxycodone is a prescription painkiller. It’s often sold under the brand-names OxyContin, Percocet, and Percodan.

Slang terms used for oxycodone include:

  • Oxy
  • Hillbilly Heroin
  • Greens
  • Killers
  • Kickers
  • OC
  • Percs
  • Roxy
  • Whites
  • Blues
  • Paulas
  • 512s
  • Cotton


Vicodin is a brand name of the drug hydrocodone. This is a prescription painkiller used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Slang terms used for Vicodin include:

  • Drones
  • Idiot Pills
  • Lorries
  • Lemonade
  • Triple V
  • Bananas
  • Scratch
  • Veeks
  • Vics
  • Vikes
  • Watsons


Xanax belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed for treating insomnia, seizures, and anxiety.

Common street names for valium include:

  • Xannies
  • Bars
  • School Bus
  • Planks
  • Bricks
  • Handlebars
  • Yellow Boys
  • Upjohns
  • Z-Bars
  • White Boys/White Girls


Valium is another benzodiazepine. It is a long-lasting anti-anxiety drug. People who abuse it may snort, smoke, or simply swallow the pills.

A few slang terms for valium include:

  • V
  • Vallies
  • Blues
  • Jellies
  • Eggs
  • Moggies
  • Yellows


Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug. It is usually snorted and causes an energy boost, increased alertness, and paranoia. There are literally hundreds of slang terms for cocaine.

Some of the most common street names for cocaine are:

  • Coke
  • Blow
  • Crack
  • Snow
  • Yayo
  • Angel Powder
  • Dust
  • Devil’s Dandruff
  • Diamonds
  • Nose Candy
  • Normal
  • Belushi
  • White Lady
  • Candy


Methamphetamine (meth for short) is a central nervous system stimulant. When legally prescribed by a doctor, methamphetamines are used to treat ADHD and other disorders. Meth comes in several forms and can be smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested. Most of the meth in America is produced by transnational Mexican cartels.

Common slang terms for meth include:

  • Bump
  • Crank
  • Hot Ice
  • Zip
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Chalk
  • Aqua
  • Fizz
  • Tina
  • Soap Dope
  • Yellow Barn


Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. It is prescribed to treat severe pain. Since fentanyl is cheap to purchase on the black market and comes in powder form, most drug dealers now add it to other drugs like heroin, cocaine, or pain pills. That’s how fentanyl came to be responsible for a majority of all fatal overdoses in the U.S. today.

Common slang terms for fentanyl include:

  • Apache
  • China Girl
  • Tango and Cash
  • TNT
  • Dance Fever
  • Goodfella
  • China White
  • Friend
  • Butter
  • Shoes
  • Jackpot
  • Facebook


Marijuana is the most common cannabinoid. It is a psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant. It is usually smoked, but can also be added to certain foods and eaten. Like cocaine, marijuana goes by hundreds of nicknames.

Some of the most common slang terms include:

  • Weed
  • Mary Jane
  • Broccoli
  • Blondie
  • African Bush
  • Grass
  • Jamaican Gold
  • Green Goblin
  • Stems
  • Chronic

More Terms to Help You Decode Modern Drug Slang

A lot of drug slang doesn’t even refer to specific drugs. Instead, these code words are used to represent other things, like where to buy drugs, how to use them, who to get them from – basically anything related to the drug culture.

“Just got a bag of potato chips. Hand to hand. You ready to get down? And no worries – haven’t seen Leo all day.”
A message like this on your teenager’s phone might seem pretty innocent…but looks can be very deceiving. This text actually invites a friend over to smoke crack and indicates police officers won’t be around to cause them any trouble.

Being aware of these terms can clue you in on potentially dangerous activities in your teen’s life. For example, if you heard your kid say she was “charged up” or that she “hit the hay,” believe it or not, she might be referring to drug use.

If your teen says he’s planning to go “rock climbing” or mentions a “shooting gallery,” he might be meeting up with friends to get high. And if he’s messaging someone with the nickname “snowman” or “paper boy,” that friend might actually be a drug dealer.

Other seemingly safe terms, like “one-stop shop, kibbles & bits, and spaceship,” could also mean more than you think. Macaroni and cheese isn’t what it used to be…


Here’s a few phrases to keep in mind as you continue learning to decode modern drug slang:

Drug Combinations

  • Fry daddy: Crack and marijuana
  • Kibbles & bits: Small crumbs of crack
  • Macaroni and cheese: $5 pack of marijuana and a dime bag of cocaine
  • Potato chips: Crack cut with benzocaine

Drug Use

  • Channel: The vein used to inject drugs
  • Charged up: Under the influence of stimulant drugs
  • Coasting: Under the influence of depressant drugs
  • Clam bake: Sitting inside a car or other enclosed space and smoking marijuana
  • Feenin’: Behavior associated with a person craving drugs when they’re unavailable
  • Get down: To inject a drug
  • Ghostbusting: Smoking cocaine
  • Hit the hay: To smoke marijuana
  • Hot box: Smoking in a car with the windows up
  • Give wings: Inject someone or teach someone to inject heroin
  • Lay-out: The equipment or tools needed to use a certain drug
  • On the nod: Under the influence of narcotics or a depressant
  • Pepsi habit: Occasional use of drugs
  • Rock climbing: Smoking rock cocaine
  • Skin popping: Injecting drugs under the skin, without hitting a vein
  • Space ship: Glass pipe used to smoke crack
  • Weightless: High on crack

Who’s Who

  • Channel swimmer: A person who injects heroin
  • Chipper: Occasional user
  • Geeker: Crack user
  • Hitters: Someone who’s willing to inject people with hard-to-find veins in exchange for drugs
  • Paper boy: Delivers or sells heroin
  • Snowman: Drug dealer

Buying and Selling

  • Abe: $5 worth of drugs
  • Abe’s cabe: $5 bill
  • Bag: Packet of drugs; a plastic baggie used to hold drugs; a person’s favorite drug
  • Deuce: $2 worth of drugs
  • Dews: $10 worth of drugs
  • Dime bag: $10 worth of drugs
  • Hand-to-hand: Direct delivery and payment
  • Interplanetary mission: Travel from one crack house to another in search of crack
  • Juggle: Sell drugs to another addict to support a habit
  • Nickel bag: $5 worth of drugs
  • Slanging: Selling drugs
  • Teardrops: Crack rocks that are packaged in the cut-off corners of plastic bags
  • Trambo: Pending drug transaction
  • Twists: Small plastic bags of heroin secured with a twist tie

Drug Hangouts

  • Abandominiums: Abandoned row of houses where drugs are used
  • Copping zones: Specific areas where buyers can purchase drugs
  • Crack-in-the-box: Busy gas station where drug transactions are common
  • House fee: Money paid to enter a crack-house
  • One-stop shop: Place where more than one drug is sold
  • Shooting gallery: Place where people go to inject drugs
  • Turf: Place where drugs are sold

Law Enforcement

  • Leo: Law enforcement officer
  • Sam: Federal narcotics agent
  • Uncle: Federal agents

What if You Decode a Drug Message?

Let’s say you discover some suspicious language on your teen’s phone or you overhear a conversation that seems to be in code. Now what?

The next step is to talk to your teen about drug use. Have an open and honest conversation. Ask questions. Listen. And if you find out they’re struggling with drug use or addiction, know that help is available.

No matter how uncomfortable a drug conversation might be for you, the last thing you want to do is ignore the situation. With deadly drugs like fentanyl on the scene, you can’t afford to dismiss the warning signs or convince yourself it’s “just a teenager experimenting.” Drugs sold on the street today are laced with enough fentanyl to kill an entire city. And that means experimenting with drugs can be lethal.

For information about the treatment options available for teenagers, contact us – get help at 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?) today.

Kerry Nenn
Kerry Nenn, BSW
Expert Author, Editor
Kerry is a full-time freelance writer and author whose work has received awards both locally and nationally. Based in the Chicago area, she holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology (BSW) from Evangel University. Kerry is a regular contributor to international newsletter publications, industry-leading consumer blogs, and Christian ministries.