As times change, so does language, including the language that is used to talk about alcohol and drugs. With each new generation, new slang terms are introduced to discuss substances, paraphernalia, and drug-related behaviors. Young people who abuse alcohol and other drugs may find it easier to hide their use from parents and other adults if they use new and unfamiliar terms for substances. 

Alternate Names for Drugs
It is not uncommon for people who use drugs to refer to their substance of choice by a nickname. Many Millennial and Gen-X parents will recognize “Mary Jane” as an alternate way to discuss marijuana, but they may not be familiar with other terms like “Christmas Tree,” “Animal Cookies,” or “Gummy Bears.” While these are seemingly innocent words, if they don’t make sense in the context of the conversation, it’s possible that the discussion isn’t actually about snacks or the holidays but about substance use. 

Drug Related Emojis
Not only might a young person conceal their conversation about drug use by using different words, but they might utilize emojis to talk about drugs, paraphernalia, or the experience of being high. 

  • Marijuana – trees, plants, leaves, broccoli
  • Heroin – needles, horses, targets, dragons
  • Psychedelic drugs – a mushroom
  • Drug dealer – a plug
  • Smoking a joint – a puff of smoke or cigarette
  • To be drunk or high – a flame, gas pump or space ship (may also symbolize a bong)

Common Items that Can Be Abused to Get High
Sometimes the items that a person is using to get high seem innocent, and when slang words are used to hide how they are actually being used, it is easy for adults to miss the signs.

  • Vaping – many adults are familiar with electronic cigarettes as an alternate means to use nicotine. However, they may not realize that marijuana can also be vaped and might be referred to as “pens” when used this way.
  • Veterinary steroids – sometimes called “abolic,” a person whose drug of choice is steroids may use animal steroids to get similar results without raising suspicions.
  • Aerosol sprays, nail polish, cleaning products, paint, paint thinner – these items are commonly sniffed or inhaled to achieve a high.
  • Edibles – A person may choose to get high by baking marijuana into brownies, cookies, or other foods.

When To Be Concerned
While it is good for adults who spend a lot of time around teenagers to be able to recognize potentially concerning words and emojis that could signal drug abuse, the situation may not always be clear from words alone. Therefore, it is important that adults learn to recognize the signs of substance abuse:

  • Problems at school or work – performance has suffered, disciplinary actions being taken
  • Changes in physical appearance – less attention to hygiene and clothing, looking worn out, red eyes</span
  • Changes in energy level – suddenly very hyper or sluggish
  • Behavioral changes – more irritable, hanging out with different friends, isolating from family, being secretive, stealing
  • Money issues – their money isn’t stretching as far as it should

Talking About It
If you are seeing verbal or behavioral indicators that someone is abusing alcohol or other substances, the first step is generally to talk to that person about what you’re seeing. Though it might be tempting to start by directly accusing them of using drugs, this is likely to receive a defensive response. It may be more helpful to start with your observations. An example of this might be, “I have noticed that your grade in English dropped and that you don’t seem to be spending as much time with the friends you used to hang out with. You seem tired pretty often, and you’re asking for more money than you used to. I’m wondering if there is something going on?” How they choose to respond can provide additional insights.

Getting Help
If you are able to determine that your loved one is abusing substances, there are different options for helping them to enter recovery. If the person is a recreational user, they may be able to stop using on their own. If they have become addicted, however, they may need professional support:

  • Detox – while some people choose to experience withdrawal symptoms at home, it can be dangerous in cases in which the person has been using heavily for a long period of time. It may be better for the detox phase to be supervised by a team of medical professionals.
  • Treatment – whether this is done inpatient or outpatient will depend on the specifics of the situation. Treatment is often covered by insurance, or financial assistance may be available.
  • Therapy – often, people with substance abuse issues are trying to self-medicate trauma and mental health symptoms. To ensure their recovery is long-lasting, it is important for them to utilize therapy.
  • Medications – in some cases, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) may be available to help the person avoid relapses
  • If you aren’t sure how to proceed, Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, is happy to assist you in finding the right way to approach your loved one and assist them in getting help.