Fifteen Common Street Names for Heroin

drugA rose by any other name would smell as sweet… and heroin, no matter what you choose to label it, is just as deadly. It’s notorious for its high rate of addiction and overdose, and nowadays it’s the Plan B for people hooked on prescription painkillers, but if you’re not street-savvy you might not know the long list of pseudonyms.

What’s In a Name? Fifteen Common Street Names for Heroin

Brown Sugar refers to an adulterated form of heroin made up of only twenty percent of the drug. Manufactured in Asia, it comes as a fine, brown powder that is meant to be smoked. It is especially popular in Asia and Europe.

Nose Drops is another reference to heroin, believed to have caught on after users began sniffing liquefied heroin through a nasal spray bottle, a practice known as “shebanging.” This was an attempt to avoid the extremely addictive and dangerous practice of intravenous heroin, but the truth is that heroin is dangerous no matter which form of consumption used.

Horse is a slang term for heroin that caught on in the 1940’s when horse trainers dosed their horses with the drug before races. In horses, heroin is a powerful central nervous system stimulant, and trainers believed that the drug helped them win.

Skag is another word for heroin. It is also a slang term indicating something unpleasant, especially an older, unattractive woman, but it is unclear whether this is related.

Smack, another alias, is believed to have come from the Yiddish word “Schmecker,” meaning “sniffer.”

Junk supposedly caught on during the early nineteenth century when heroin addicts rooted through junk piles in order to find scrap metal to sell to fund their drug habits. Hence, the word “junkie.”

H is simply a shortened form of the drug’s name.

Big H is an alternative to this.

Boy is another slang variation and is based on the tendency to call cocaine “that girl” or “da girl”–heroin became “that boy” or “da boy.” It is also related to the tendency to call heroin “Ron.”

Hell dust is fairly self-explanatory–it is a description of the high from heroin, or the battle with addiction.

Skunk often refers to heroin-laced marijuana.

Harry is merely a variation on the drug’s name.

Dope is used by drug users as an alternative name for heroin. This came about during the late nineteenth century and was used to describe the heavy, tired and foolish behavior of an opium addict. The word caught on and eventually came to mean any drug. It is now a popular label for marijuana as well.

Mud is used to refer to black tar heroin, a less refined and cheaper form of the drug. Also known as Cheeb, Muck and Mexican Mud, black tar heroin is sold as a firm, black rock or a dark, sticky substance. It can be injected, snorted or smoked and can be very potent.

Dragon is based on the term “chasing the dragon,” which means to get high from smoking heroin. This is based on a form of consumption which became popular in Honk Kong during the 1950’s. Users placed a mixture of heroin and sleeping powder on a piece of creased tin foil and heated it until smoke began to rise. After moving the foil to prevent burning, they then “chased the dragon”–i.e., inhaled the trailing smoke through a thin tube. This form of consumption became popular because it did not require pipes, needles and other kinds of incriminating paraphernalia.


Heroin has been given hundreds of alternative names, some of them glorifying the high and some depicting the ride through hell generated by this potent drug. Regardless of the name or the description, heroin is a highly addictive and dangerous drug.

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