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In the United States, where many drugs are either completely illegal or prescription drugs which are being abused illicitly, it is unsurprising that these substances go by a wide variety of names. To some extent this comes from a desire to be able to discuss drugs without people such as law enforcement agents realizing what is happening, but in fact this is a relatively minor factor - after all, government agents in this field will already be well acquainted with the names which people use for almost any popular street drug. Instead, street drug slang names are commonly utilized for two reasons: first, to give their users a sense of shared identity, and second, because the medicinal names for many drugs are unwieldy to use in casual speech.
Understanding some of the more common slang names used on the street to refer to various drugs is something which can be useful in learning whether a family member or other loved one is abusing these substances. It makes it more likely that chance remarks or overheard conversations will be correctly interpreted as referring to such drugs, and therefore gives parents and other family members a better chance of being able to tackle the problem of abuse or dependency before it gets completely out of hand. Some parents, especially, shy away from reading about slang street names, on the grounds that they wish to avoid any contact with the underworld of illicit drug taking - but in fact, this may actually put their children at higher risk of falling into the world of drug abuse.
Marijuana provides the most obvious and well known example of this phenomenon. Although its regular name is the only one generally used in mainstream publications in the United States - unlike in the United Kingdom, where it is more commonly known as cannabis - marijuana has an enormous variety of street names. These include long-standing terms which have come close to breaking into the mainstream, such as pot and weed, as well as slightly more obscure names like urb and sinsemilla. In general, small-time users - as opposed to dealers and producers - of marijuana tend not to be overly concerned with maintaining secrecy, especially in jurisdictions where it is not considered a serious crime to possess or use the drug.
More potentially dangerous drugs also have their fair share of slang names. A good example is the hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide, which is usually referred to by its initials, LSD. Again, some of the drug's slang names, such as acid, have been around for decades. Others are less obvious to the casual listener, such as blue heaven or white lightning; these names refer to the color of the pills which are taken to induce a hallucinogenic experience, commonly known as a trip. Ecstasy, which is often abused by young party-goers, has a different emphasis in its street names: most of them are simply initials derived from the drug's chemical formulation; MDMA is the most common, but STP and PMA also occur. This use of initials rather than actual words makes it harder to realize when someone is talking about ecstasy.
It is important to appreciate that slang names for street drugs are not limited to those substances which are outright illegal. Many of them are in fact legitimate prescription medicines which are simply being abused. The strong painkiller codeine, for example, can be referred to as zoom, sparkle, or dice. Similarly, oxycodone may be referred to as perc, after the branded medicine containing the drug, Percodan. Many of these names remain stable for years or even decades, but some are much more transient, and it is necessary to appreciate that a full knowledge of the street vocabulary of drugs will require continual work in order to stay as up to date as possible.
The effort can bring its own reward, however, if a knowledge of street drug slang names permits the speedy identification - followed by effective, professional treatment - of a person who has been abusing drugs. Getting help for a person who is addicted to a drug, whatever class it falls into, is of the greatest importance. It is vital that this help is administered by a practitioner who is suitably qualified and experienced in dealing with the specific drug in question; a heroin specialist will not necessarily have an extensive knowledge of how to treat a person who is dependent on cocaine. Many pharmaceutical companies maintain links on their websites through which local, expert treatment may be obtained.
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