Molly, Spice, and Orange Crush: Slang for Dangerous Drugs

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Graphic name tag with text saying, "HELLO my name is TROUBLE."

You overhear two girls talking about last night’s concert, when one says to the other “I can’t believe she took 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine!”

Oh, wait. That would never happen, right? Probably because “Molly,” the nickname given to MDMA, sounds hip and harmless compared to its actual name—which sounds like what it is, a chemical that you shouldn’t put in your body.

Same goes for cathinones, otherwise known as “Ivory Wave,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “White Lightning,” and “Scarface” when they're marketed as bath salts—and more recently, as plant food and jewelry cleaner. (But why would anyone want to consume bath salts, plant food, or cleaner?)

Even drug names that aren't chemical compounds get the short-hand treatment: heroin is sometimes known as “smack,” and cocaine is often called coke or “blow.”

Why Not Just Call it What it Is?

Drug dealers are salespeople, and they know that calling drugs funny or trendy names makes their products seem cool. That makes the buyer feel cool, too—like they’re part of the "in-crowd." Street names are a marketing ploy: a way for people who sell drugs to make them seem more appealing, as well as safe—not harmful, like they really are.

Think about “Spice,” for example. It sounds like it could easily be found in the kitchen cabinet, next to the oregano, basil, or garlic powder. Even “fake marijuana” sounds almost natural compared with the variety of dangerous manmade chemicals those products actually contain. But if it was called “scary chemicals that may cause anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations,” it might not go over so well.

Sounds Nice, Acts Nasty

Or how about “robotripping?” Sounds like the latest EDM dance move, but really it’s slang for abusing over-the-counter cough and cold medicines that contain dextromethorphan (DXM).

Other street names for DXM include “orange crush,” “skittles,” and “velvet syrup.” Those might sound yummy, but don’t be fooled—abusing DXM can raise your blood pressure, make you feel sick, and even make you hallucinate.

Giving drugs cute or edgy names doesn't change how they affect your brain and body. So the next time someone starts talking about eightballs (crack mixed with heroin), yeah-o (cocaine), or Jamaican gold (marijuana), remember: cute names don’t work if you have the facts about drugs. 

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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