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Drug glossary

You’ve heard people say “Just Say NO!” to drugs because they’re addictive and can hurt your health. But how much do you really know about drugs and other things that can mess with your mind and body?

The list below can help you understand what’s out there. It includes popular illegal drugs. But it also includes prescription medicines. That’s because they are okay only for the person who was given the prescription and only in the amount prescribed. The list also includes stuff that can seem pretty safe because they’re easy to get, like over-the-counter medicines, energy drinks, and household products like hairspray. The truth is, though, that these items can cause very serious problems if used in unhealthy ways. Keep reading to learn about how drugs can slam your health both now and down the road — long after any good feelings wear off.

You may know a drug by a slang or "street" name. Scroll to find the drug you want to learn about and click it.

Caffeine and “energy” drinks top

In reasonable amounts caffeine is safe for most people. But consuming a lot of caffeine can cause serious problems no matter what form it comes in, from extra espresso shots to caffeine pills (like NoDoz). And energy drinks that have become popular can pack a huge punch. In fact, some brands have as much caffeine as 5 cups of coffee! You’d never know it, though, because the labels don’t have to include that information.

Also called: Cat,Aall,Bout,Teaser,Tip

What it looks like: Energy drinks can look like soft drinks, but often have a lot more caffeine. They also can look like sports drinks such as Gatorade, but don’t help your body refuel in the same way.

What it can do to you: Caffeine can make you feel awake and full of energy, but when it wears off, your energy can come crashing down.

Some dangers of too much caffeine:

  • Nervousness
  • Feeling irritable
  • Trouble sleeping
  •  Fast heartbeat
  • Stomach problems
  • Withdrawal symptoms, like headache and dizziness

Caffeine drinks combined with alcohol can cause even bigger problems. You could be drunk and full of energy. That could get you into some very dangerous situations.

Club drugs top

These drugs are most often found at events like parties, dance clubs, raves, and concerts. They include date rape drugs, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and LSD. All of these drugs can possibly make you very sick. These drugs can have a big effect on your mind and can cause you to make poor decisions.

Cocaine/Crack top

Also called: Blow, Bump, C, Charlie, Coke, Flake, Horn, Nose Candy, Rock, Snow, Snowball, Toot

What it looks like: Cocaine is a white powder or an off-white chunky material. Powder cocaine is usually snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is a form of cocaine that is smoked.

What it can do to you: The effects from using cocaine happen right away and can last from a few minutes to a few hours. Users feel euphoric (very happy and excited), energetic, talkative, mentally alert, and don’t feel like they need to eat or sleep. However, cocaine is very addictive. Some users will need more of it with each time they get high.

Some dangers:

  • Faster heart rate
  • Strange, crazy, and violent behavior
  • Dizziness
  • Nosebleeds and lost sense of smell (if snorted)
  • Severe breathing problems
  • Headaches
  • Paranoia and anxiety (being overly scared or nervous about something)
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems
  • Stroke
  • Death

Date rape drugs top

Date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine can be used to sexually assault a person. The drugs often have no color, smell, or taste and are easily added to drinks without the victim’s knowledge. These drugs can cause a person to become physically helpless, so they are not able to protect themselves from being hurt. They can also cause the person to forget what happened while they were under the effect of the drug. They also can affect the body in different problematic ways, depending on the drug. In rare cases, and particularly when combined with alcohol, these drugs can cause death.

If you think you may have been the victim of a sexual attack, learn more and get help.

Dextromethorphan/DXM top

Also called: CCC, Dex, Skittles, Robo, Triple C

What it looks like: Dextromethorphan usually comes in over-the-counter cough or cold medicines like Robitussin and Sudafed Cold & Cough. It can come in a liquid, capsule, chewable tablet, and dissolving strip.

What it can do to you: This medicine gives safe relief for a cough when taken the right way. When misused, usually at higher doses than recommended, it can make you feel and see things that aren’t real.

Some dangers of misusing dextromethorphan:

  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness and feely unsteady
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Cough medicines and other products made with dextromethorphan often have other medicines in them that can cause additional health problems. Taking DXM together with alcohol is especially dangerous

Ecstasy (club drug) top

Also called: Adam, Beans, Clarity, E, Eve, Hug, Hug Drug, Love Drug, Lover's Speed, MDMA, Peace, X, XTC

What it looks like: This drug comes in the form of a pill or white powder. It is usually swallowed, but can be snorted.

What it can do to you: Ecstasy is often used at parties so people can dance and stay active for long periods of time. It causes your emotions (both positive and negative ones) to be really strong. It also makes your sense of touch very sensitive.

Some dangers:

  • Faintness
  • Chills
  • Dehydration (being very thirsty)
  • Sweating
  • Nausea (upset stomach)
  • Depression after the drug wears off
  • Clenching and grinding your teeth (damages your teeth and jaw)
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia and anxiety (being overly scared or nervous about something)
  • Memory problems

You may have heard of Herbal Ecstasy or Organic Ecstasy. These may be made with substances that can cause serious harm, like heart problems, so don’t be fooled by their names.

GHB (club drug and date rape drug) top

Also called: G, Georgia Home Boy, Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid Ecstasy, Soap

What it looks like: GHB has a few forms: a liquid with no odor or color, white powder, and pill.

What it can do to you: GHB can make you feel very happy and experience things that aren’t real. It is used as a date rape drug.

Some dangers:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Problems seeing
  • Unconsciousness (blackouts)
  • Decrease in heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea (upset stomach)
  • Headache
  • Slowed breathing
  • Amnesia (memory loss)
  • Coma

Hallucinogens top

LSD is the most well-known hallucinogen, but there are others, like psilocybin (say: SY-loh-SY-ben), which comes from mushrooms. These drugs got their name because they can cause hallucinations — experiences that seem real but aren’t. They also can cause a feeling of taking a mental “trip” that may be exciting or very scary. You can’t know how hallucinogens will affect your mood or your senses, which means you could wind up doing something dangerous or having an accident. Other drugs, like PCP and ketamine, can cause experiences that are similar to hallucinations. If you take a lot of it, dextromethorphan, which is in over-the-counter cough medicines, can have this effect too.

Heroin top

Also called: Antifreeze, Ballot, Big Bag, Big H, Brown Sugar, Capital H, Cheese, Chip, Dead on Arrival, Dirt, Dope, H, Horse, Junk, Ska, Skag, Smack, White Horse

What it looks like: Heroin is a powder with a bitter taste. The color can range from white to dark brown to black. Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted.

What it can do to you: Heroin quickly causes intense rush and feeling of pleasure, but this goes away. It is very addictive.

Some dangers:

  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe itching
  • Sleepiness
  • Problems thinking and concentrating
  • Slow breathing (can lead to death)

Inhalants top

Also called: Bang, Bold, Glue, Huff, Kick, Laughing Gas, Poppers, Rush, Snappers, Sniff, Texas Shoeshine, Whippets

What they are: Inhalants are household or commercial products that some people sniff or huff (inhaling through the mouth) to get high. Some products are nail polish remover, hairspray, gasoline, spray paint, paint thinner, or glue.

What it can do to you: Each kind of inhalant has different effects on your body. You might feel a head rush, a loss of sensation, or a high. However, the chemicals in these products can be poisonous. Whether you use it only once or many times, it can lead to serious damage in your body.

Some dangers:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Trouble breathing and/or suffocation (stop breathing)
  • Fainting
  • Brain damage
  • Liver and kidney damage

Ketamine (club drug and date rape drug) top

Also called: Cat Valium, K, Keller, Kit Kat, Special K, Super Acid, Super C, Vitamin K

What it looks like: Ketamine comes in the form of a white powder, tablet, or liquid. It is a legal drug in the U.S. only when used as an anesthetic (mostly for animals). Otherwise, it is illegal.

What it can do to you: It can make sights and sounds seem different from usual. It can make you feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you.

Some dangers:

  • Dreamlike state
  • Slurred speech
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Breathing problems
  • Amnesia (memory loss)

LSD (club drug) top

Also called: Acid, Blotter, Boomers, Cubes, Microdot, Yellow Sunshines

What it looks like: LSD comes as a liquid, in tablets or capsules, or on small sheets of paper. It doesn't have any smell or color but has a slightly bitter taste.

What it can do to you: LSD’s effects are unpredictable, and often its biggest effect is on the mind. It makes the person experience feelings that are not normal and can be very scary. Some people who take LSD die because their minds trick them into doing dangerous things. Even if a person stops taking LSD, he or she can still have some of the mental effects for days, months, or even years.

Some dangers:

  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there)
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite (not wanting to eat)
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Flashbacks, or reliving some aspects of an earlier drug experience, which can be very scary
  • Sensation "cross over" (person feels like they "hear" colors and "see" sounds)
  • Paranoia and anxiety (being overly scared or nervous about something)
  • Depression

Marijuana top

Also called: Blunt, Boom, Chronic, Doobie, Gangster, Ganja, Grass, Herb, Joint, Kif, Mary Jane, Reefer, Skunk, Pot, Weed

What it looks like: Marijuana is a dried mixture of flowers, stems, leaves, and seeds from a type of hemp plant. It can have over 400 chemicals in it! It is smoked as a cigarette, in a pipe, in cigars, or in a device called a bong.

What it can do to you: People use marijuana because it may make them feel relaxed and happy for a short time. But marijuana can be addictive and exposes the lungs to poisons. It also is linked to problems in school, in relationships, and in overall life satisfaction. If you have heard of “medical marijuana,” you may think that means it’s safe. It’s not. Although some states let doctors prescribe marijuana for patients with certain medical problems, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it as a medication. Also, even if marijuana were to become an approved medication, using it would be risky unless the drug was prescribed for you and taken as directed.

Some dangers:

  • Memory problems
  • Problems with learning, thinking, and concentration
  • Loss of coordination
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia (being overly scared or nervous about something)
  • Bronchitis, coughing, and other respiratory infections

Methamphetamine top

Also called: Chalk, Crank, Crystal, Fire, Glass, Go Fast, Ice, Meth, Speed, Tina

What it looks like: It comes in a white powder with no smell and a bitter taste or in chunky crystals. It can be snorted, injected, smoked, or dissolved in a drink.

What it can do to you: Methamphetamine causes a rush and an increase in energy that can last 20 minutes to 12 hours. But it can harm your body in many serious ways.

Some dangers:

  • Confusion
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there)
  • Anxiety and paranoia (being overly scared or nervous about something)
  • Convulsions (violent body shaking)
  • Hyperthermia (very high body temperature)
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Not only is methamphetamine dangerous for individuals, it can cause huge problems for whole communities. For one, it is very addictive and can make people do things they otherwise would never do. For another, it can be made in home-made “labs” using very dangerous chemicals. Those chemicals can wind up in the soil, water, and air, and can cause horrible explosions.

PCP/Phencyclidine top

Also called: Angel Dust, Hog, Killer Weed, Love Boat, Ozone, Peace Pill, Rocket Fuel, Supergrass, Wack

What it looks like: PCP is a white crystalline powder that is sold as a tablet, capsule, or colored powder. It can be snorted, smoked, or eaten and has a bitter chemical taste.

What it can do to you: PCP is a "dissociative" drug. That means it can make a person feel “detached,” or separated from things around them, and it can change the way they see and hear things too. PCP has very unpredictable effects, but it often does not make people feel good. PCP is addictive, which means it is hard to stop taking it. People who abuse PCP for a long time may have memory loss and trouble speaking and thinking. PCP has also been known to cause "flashbacks," where the user starts hallucinating (seeing or hearing things that are not really there) again days, weeks, or even months after using PCP.

Some dangers:

  • Numbness of the arms and legs
  • Loss of muscle control, loss of balance, and dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Drooling
  • Garbled speech
  • Chaotic or confused thoughts
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there)
  • Paranoia (being overly scared or nervous about something)
  • Violent or suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Seizures, coma, and death

Prescription medicines top

Some people think using prescription medicines to get high is safer than using street drugs. But if you take someone else’s medicine — or take more of your own than the doctor says — you can get addicted or have very serious health problems.

One type of prescription medicine that people sometimes misuse is depressants. These medicines “depress,” or slow down, your brain and body. They include tranquilizers, sedatives, and sleeping pills that can calm your nerves and relax your muscles. These include Ativan, Valium, and Xanax, which are sometimes called by slang names like “candy” and “tranks.”

Another type of prescription medicine that is sometimes misused is stimulants. They can “stimulate” you, or make you feel very awake or happy. These include the ADHD medicines Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall.

Other prescription medicines that are misused may be pain relievers, like codeine, which come as brand-name medicines like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Tylenol with codeine. They can make you feel happy or sleepy.

Prescription depressants, stimulants, and pain relievers all are addictive and can cause death, especially if taken at high doses or combined with other medications or drugs.  Also, depending on the medication, they may cause problems like changes in heartbeat, slowed breathing, seizures, anxiety, and a dangerously high body temperature.

Ritalin top

Also called: R-ball, Rits, Smart Drug, Vitamin R, West Coast

What it is: Ritalin is a prescription medicine used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can be swallowed, crushed, snorted, or injected. Another prescription medication, Concerta, is used in similar ways.

What it can do to you: People who abuse Ritalin or Concerta often do it to make them feel happy and awake, but it can be very dangerous when not taken as prescribed. 

Some dangers:

  • Severe confusion
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Fast and pounding heartbeat

Rohypnol (club drug and date rape drug) top

Also called: Forget-me pill, Mexican Valium, R2, Roach, Roche, Roofies, Rope, Rophies

What it looks like: Royhpnol is a pill. Some versions of it turn blue when added to a liquid, but others have no color when added to liquids.

What it can do to you: It can make you very relaxed and sleepy. Like many other drugs, it can be addictive.

Some dangers:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble walking
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Amnesia (memory loss)
  • Unconsciousness (blackouts)
  • Upset stomach

Steroids top

Also called: Arnolds, Gym Candy, Juice, Pumpers, Roids, Stackers, Weight Trainers

What it looks like: Steroids are pills taken orally, injected into the muscle, or rubbed on the skin (gels or creams).

What it can do to you: One kind of steroid, anabolic androgenic steroids, acts like testosterone, which is a male hormone that makes boys different from girls. Girls sometimes use these steroids because they want to improve their athletic performance. They make girls start to develop male physical characteristics, like facial hair. (This type of steroid is not the same as corticosteroids, which are used to treat health problems from asthma to rashes.)

Effects of steroids for girls:

  • Growth of facial hair
  • Larger muscles
  • Irregular menstrual cycle (periods)
  • Aggression (acting violently)
  • Failure to grow taller
  • Liver cancer
  • Heart problems

Stimulants top

Stimulants can make you feel in a good mood, full of energy, and less hungry. They include the illegal drugs cocaine and crack. There also are prescription stimulants, like Ritalin that can be safe if used as directed but that are dangerous if misused. Ecstasy/MDMA is an illegal stimulant that tends to be found at parties or clubs. Methamphetamine is a very addictive stimulant that has some uses as a medicine but that is often made in dangerous labs.

Abuse of stimulants can cause a variety of health effects, depending on the drug. These include heart problems, anxiety, seizures, and paranoia.