Teens: Text Language and Code Words Teens Use to Mask Drug Use

If you think you are familiar with the slang terms that teens use to talk about drug use, think again. Code words like grass or Mary Jane (marijuana) and rock or snow (cocaine) may have once been used to hide drug use from parents and authority figures, but they are now so well known that they have very little chance of fooling anyone.

Code language has grown and evolved as teens try to stay one step ahead, and modern technology has made it possible for this language to evolve even more quickly. Thanks to the Internet, new slang terms can spread like wildfire and become widely popularized among teenagers in almost no time at all. For parents who want to keep up, it is not simply a matter of learning today’s drug slang, but also tomorrow’s and the day after’s.

Text language has also become ever more complex, to the point where text conversations can seem like gibberish to the uninitiated. While such language is often used simply for convenience, it can be used to hide conversations about drugs, sex or other things that teens would prefer to keep hidden.

The More You Know

Familiarizing yourself with the appearance, effects, origins and chemical components of various drugs can help you to detect new code words for drugs. These code words frequently reflect the properties of the drugs to which they refer; for example, the terms snow, dust, rock, flake, powder and white all refer to the physical properties of cocaine. Speed is a type of amphetamine, so called because of the rush of energy it provides. After September 11, 2001, heroin (which often originates in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan) came to be known as Bin Laden. Even knowing a drug’s history may provide you with clues—methamphetamine supposedly acquired the nickname crank because it used to be smuggled in vehicle crankcases.

Drug slang also frequently plays on the most common names for drugs. Just like Mary Jane became a nickname for cannabis because it sounds like an Anglicized version of marijuana, Stacy has become a nickname for ecstasy because, well, it sounds like ecstasy. Slang terms for GHB, which stands for gamma hydroxybutyrate, often use alternative words for these initials, such as Georgia Home Boy and Grievous Bodily Harm.

Find the Theme

Just because older slang terms for drugs become outdated does not mean that they can’t be useful. New terms are often thematically similar to older ones, hence the vast number of names that all reflect the fact that cocaine is a white powder or that cannabis comes from a flowering herb plant. If you know that snow, dust, flake and powder all refer to cocaine, you may be able to guess that sugar does also.

Code words can also evolve, often to the point where the current slang barely resembles the original term. However, knowing a few of these terms may help you to identify new terms that fit into the same evolutionary sequence. Quite a few code words for cocaine have arisen from the Spanish slang term llello, which evolved into yeyo, then to yay and eventually to yale, yank, yahoo and more.

Translating Texting

Teen text speak has moved so far beyond LOL that even those people who consider themselves pretty Internet savvy are likely to find themselves stumped by more than a few terms and abbreviations. If you are concerned about your teen’s possible drug use, there are a few of these terms to watch out for. Not surprisingly, the digits 420 are often used to refer to marijuana. CID may refer to acid (LSD), while XTC is a common initialism for ecstasy. You might also watch out for messages such as PIR (parent in room) or the number 9 (which also warns that a parent is near), since both may suggest that teens have something to discuss that they don’t want you to know about.

All About Context

You don’t always have to know exactly what a word or phrase means to suspect that it may refer to illicit drug use. For example, if it seems strange that teens are talking with enthusiasm about a bland breakfast cereal, they may not mean the Special K made by Kellogg’s. Words seemingly used out of context or phrases that seems like non sequiturs are good clues that teens are trying to disguise the true meaning of a conversation.

In the end, your own instincts and the ability to spot words and phrases that sound a bit strange are going to be your best resources. There is simply too much drug-related slang to memorize it all, even if it weren’t evolving on a regular basis. However, if you do notice terms that set the alarm bells ringing, sites like noslang.com and transl8it.com are good places to seek a translation and see if your suspicions are correct. Noslang.com has an extensive section specifically for drug slang, and while it isn’t comprehensive (which would be practically impossible); it has a very extensive number of entries.