Site Defines Drug Slang

By: Charles Bowen

Often we consider slang to be a relatively light-hearted topic. From time to time over the years, in fact, I’ve filled this very space occasionally with a column that was positively jiggy with trill jive about slang, along with, of course, equally def translations. But, as your police reporter can tell you, slang sometimes isn’t to be played for laughs.

In fact, increasingly a knowledge of current slang can be the first clue when it comes to cracking the underground world of illegal drugs. For instance, did you know:

* If someone mentioned “Apple jacks” were finding a way into a neighborhood school, the speaker might be referring to crack cocaine?

* That there are more than 100 slang terms for heroin, from “Al Capone” and “Antifreeze” to “Bart Simpson” and “Belushi” to “Tootsie roll,” “White boy,” and “Witch hazel”?

* That to “bingo,” to “geezer,” to “job,” to “laugh and scratch,” to “roller,” “slam,” or “track” are all terms for injecting drugs?

* And that a “woolah” is a hollowed cigar filled with marijuana and crack, while “Kibbles & Bits” sometimes is used to described small crumbs of crack?

To help the public understand the latest language of narcotics, the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy has backed the online publication of Street Terms, a database with more than 2,000 terms that refer to specific drug types or drug activity. “The ability to understand current drug-related street terms,” says the agency, “is an invaluable tool for law enforcement, public health and other criminal justice professionals who work with the public.”

To use the electronic lexicon, visit the site at http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/streetterms, where an introductory page offers three ways to delve into the material. If you want to jump directly to a slang term to learn its translation, click on the first letter of the word, using the hyperlinked alphabet at the top of the page.

On the other hand, if you want to search from the opposite direction, you also can find assorted slang terms currently in use for various narcotics. In the “By Drug Type” section of the introductory page, click on a specific drug in the alphabetized list. More than 50 drugs are listed, ranging from Alpha-ethyltryptamine and Amphetamine to Strychnine and Talwin.

Finally, you also can search the word collection by usage and by drug culture. At the bottom of the introductory screen is a “By Topic” section that has hyperlinked subjects that include “Costs & Quantities,” “Drug Trade,” and “Drug Use.” Clicking any will produce a list of terms specifically related to those topics.

Other considerations for using the Street Terms database in your writing and editing:

1. Most of the terms are cross-referenced. Also a single term or similar terms may refer to various drugs or they could have different meanings or spellings, depending on geography or demographic factors. Note that no attempt was made to determine which usage is more frequent or more widespread.

2. In the site’s assorted lists, different definitions for a single term are separated by semi-colons. The use of commas and the connective “and” indicates that the term refers to the use of the specified drugs in combination.

3. For other information about and from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, visit the agency’s primary Web site at http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov.

To see Bowen’s last 10 columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Bowen” in the “Author” field.

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