Posted in Teen Drug Addiction on April 15, 2013
Last modified on May 10th, 2019
How Teens Use Slang to Conceal Drug Use from Adults
Slang is difficult to keep up with, especially with the instant connectivity provided by the Internet. Slang terms are widely employed by teens so they can discuss drugs in front of teachers or parents without attracting suspicion. Then there are many unfamiliar terms that have harmless meanings. Staying on top of trends and drug nicknames is extremely useful if you think your teen may be using drugs or has been using terminology you don’t understand. Learning a little about teen slang can also help you to differentiate between ordinary communications and terms that could relate to drugs.
Developing an Ear for Slang
The first task is being able to tell when a slang term is being used. This is generally obvious from the context in which the words are said, but you might miss some because the words are often innocuous. Don’t ignore any unusual phrasing, repetition of a word, or things that just sound strange.
For example, you might hear your teen say that he and his friends are going out to get some “Special K.” Do you really think some teenagers are going out to purchase some health-conscious breakfast cereal? Of course they aren’t. Likewise, if your daughter says, “Are you anywhere?” to one of her friends and receives a “yes” or “no” response without hesitation or confusion, there is clearly something you don’t understand. Unusual phrases like this don’t prove your teen is using drugs, but you may need to investigate further.
Learning the Basics
While teens are endlessly inventive, there are some standard slang terms for drugs that are worth learning. Most people are aware that “Charlie” is a name for cocaine and “Mary Jane” is one for marijuana, for example, but if they’re new to your teen he may mistakenly believe that you won’t know the term. There is a useful guide to the most common terms at WebMD, but here are a few of the basics:
- Cocaine: Snow, coke, nose candy, white, toot, Charlie, powder
- Marijuana: Green, trees, pot, herb, grass, weed, 420, chronic, tea, blunt
- Cough Medicine (Dextromethorphan): Candy, dex, robo, skittles, tussin, vitamin D
- Ketamine: Special K, vitamin K, breakfast cereal, K, ket, horse tranquilizer
- MDMA: Ecstasy, E, essence, X, Stacy, XTC, Adam, clarity, lover’s speed
- Heroin: Brown sugar, H, horse, junk, smack, anti-freeze, poison
- Methamphetamine: Speed, crank, chalk, fire, glass, ice
Look for Patterns
Thanks to text messaging and the Internet, a large proportion of teens’ communications now goes unheard and is extremely difficult to monitor. This makes it much easier for teens to devise new nicknames, to such a degree that even a comprehensive list quickly becomes obsolete. This means that the best way to identify new slang is to think about the ways it is commonly created. There are a few useful patterns you can identify to help you classify a new piece of slang more easily.
Firstly, sound-alike names are pretty common in drug slang. Mary Jane sounds very much like marijuana, coke is a shortening of cocaine, Stacy and XTC sound like ecstasy, and ket is similar to ketamine. GHB is a drug with many sound-alike nicknames, which often use the key letters of the drug name—Georgia Home Boy and Grievous Bodily Harm are two examples.
“Evolutionary” nicknames are another common type of drug nickname. You can see this in the list above clearly. Marijuana is commonly referred to as weed and grass because of its plant-like appearance, but these nicknames have evolved into other related names like trees, herb, green, tea, bush and even Kate Bush. From this, the phrase “mowing the grass” has developed (which means to smoke marijuana), and it’s also possible that kids may change this to “mowing the lawn.” Another good example is ketamine, which evolved from the sound-alike “K” to special K and from special K to breakfast cereal. For crystal methamphetamine, the common term ice predictably switched to fire.
Finally, look out for words related to how the drugs are taken and their other qualities. For example, the common route of administration for cocaine is snorting up the nose, which has led to the term nose candy. The terms clarity and lover’s speed for ecstasy are generally related to the drug’s euphoric effects, and things like powder for cocaine and ice for methamphetamines are derived from their appearance.
Learn About Drugs
Aside from trying to decode new terms based on these general rules and past terminology, the most effective thing you can do is learn about the drugs themselves. If you suspect your teen is using a specific drug, then you should learn about it and focus on nicknames for it to see if you can confirm your suspicions. You should also learn about ways you can help your teen with his or her addiction. Learning about the most commonly abused drugs among teens, such as prescription and over-the-counter medicines, marijuana and ecstasy is a good idea, too.
Slang continually changes, so staying up to date with drug trends and new nicknames is absolutely essential. If there is a new drug, learn about it and how to recognize the symptoms of use in your teen, and always look up any unusual terms you hear your kids using. It isn’t easy to stay ahead of the curve, but if you put a little time into research every month or two and follow up on anything that catches your attention, you’ll notice red flags more often.
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