Heroin Street Names
Once the ban on legal narcotic sales was placed in 1923 by the Narcotics Division of the U.S. Department of Treasury, people who were addicted to heroin turned instead to obtaining the drug illegally from the street.1
Initially, this illegal form of heroin available on the street was supplied primarily from China and came as a white powdery substance, referred to as "China White."1, 2
The street name was popularized as a way to disguise heroin transactions between distributers, dealers and users; soon thereafter, other street names for the drug began to emerge.
Why Learn Heroin Street Names?
Understanding the slang for heroin used by heroin addicts is not just important for law enforcement agencies and officers but is also important for family members and friends.2 ,3
By becoming aware of the common street names and jargon phrases used for heroin use and distribution, concerned family members and friends will have a better chance of recognizing a loved one's need for help.
The Most Common Heroin Street Names
Nicknames for heroin tend to go in and out of popularity throughout the years. They may also vary across subcultures and geographical areas. Though not always reliable, some nicknames are used to describe the drug's potency, effects, color, texture, taste, smell and combination with other substances.
- Birdie Powder.
- Black Tar.
- Black Eagle.
- Brown Sugar.
- Brown Crystal.
- Brown Tape.
- White Horse.
- Mexican Horse.
- Mexican Mud.
- Mexican Brown.
- Mexican Tar.
- China White.
- Big H.
- White Stuff.
- White Girl.
- White Boy.
- White Nurse.
- White Lady.
Street Names for Heroin Mixtures
It is not uncommon for heroin to be cut with an additive substance.2 In fact, it is fairly rare for pure, uncut heroin to be available from a street dealer, though there is some suggestion that uncut heroin may be becoming more common.4
When new mixtures of the drug are created, users will often coin unique names for the compound.
The actual act of cutting a batch of heroin by combining it with another substance, in some instances, can alter the color of the powder from white to brown. This color change led to the development of the street name "Brown Sugar."3, 1
The powder form of the drug can also be combined with an acid – typically lemon juice or citric acid powder – dissolved in water and then heated to create a thick solution that may be injected directly into the vein.
When the brown-powder form of the drug is used to prepare this heroin solution, a dark brown or black tar-like substance is formed. This process led to the development of the street names "Black tar heroin" and "Mexican mud."
Marijuana and heroin
- Atom Bomb.
Cocaine and heroin
- Belushi (after John Belushi, who died from cocaine/heroin overdose).
Crack and heroin
- Dragon rock.
- Chasing the dragon.
- Chocolate rock.
Fentanyl and heroin
- China White.
Cold or cough medicine and heroin
Morphine and heroin
- New Jack Swing.
- Cotton Brothers.
Zanax and heroin
MDMA and heroin
- H bomb.
- Chocolate chip cookies.
Methamphetamine and heroin
- Meth speed ball.
Cocaine, methamphetamine, Rohypnol, alcohol and heroin
- The Five Way.
Street Slang for Heroin Distribution
Most commonly, heroin is distributed in paper packages, which are known as "bindles."3 The term "nickel bag" refers to a package of heroin that is $5, though "bags" are available at various costs.
Heroin may also be packaged and distributed in balloons, so that the drug can be easily swallowed in order to conceal possession of the drug while trafficking.1, 3 This practice led to the coining of the term "balloons."
Large quantities of the drug are typically packed in quantities of "kilos." These packges can be broken down into smaller "Z's" – or ounces – for selling.
Street Slang for Heroin Use
- Boot or booting.
- Cook Up.
- Chasing the Dragon.
- Do Up.
- Dip and Dab.
- Mainlining (refers to the act of injecting or "shooting" heroin directly into a vein).
- Daytime (refers to a heroin high).
- Evening (refers to coming down from a heroin high).
- Skin Popping (refers to the act of injecting heroin subcutaneously or just under the skin).
- Paper Boy.
- Channel Swimmer.
- Jolly Pop.
- Firing the Ack Ack Gun.
Other Signs Your Loved One Might Be Using Heroin
It is not uncommon for individuals who are addicted to heroin to lie and makes attempts to conceal their habit. There are, however, a few signs that you can be on the lookout for, should you suspect that a loved one is struggling with a heroin addiction. Some common signs of heroin use include:
- Possession of drug paraphernalia: syringes, aluminum foil, glass or metal pipes, baggies and balloons.
- Physical symptoms: drowsiness, disorientation, dirty and unkempt appearance, tremors, stomach aches, muscle cramps, diarrhea, pinpoint pupils, itching skin, needle marks, scars, scabs, bruising, depression and changes in mood or behavior.
- Social withdrawal.
- Missing money or other valuables.
- Secretiveness or frequently being caught lying.
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- Hughes PH, Barker NW, Crawford GA, Jaffe JH. The natural history of a heroin epidemic. Am J Public Health 1972;62(7):995-1001.
- Stephens RC. The street addict role: A theory of heroin addiction. 1991 Suny Press. Albany, NY.
- Substanceabuse.org report on common heroin street names.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Heroin.
- "Cheese" Heroin: Status as of June 30, 2008. University of Texas. Web.