Modern Australian

Writers Wanted

how drug slang affects the way we use and understand drugs

  • Written by Julaine Allan, Senior research fellow, Charles Sturt University

Slang names or street names for drugs are common. From pingers (MDMA), to fishies (GHB) to going into the K-hole (ketamine), slang use marks someone as an insider with knowledge and experience of illicit drug use.

The use of language around drugs is important because people using drugs referred to by slang names could misunderstand what they’re getting.

At the same time, tuning in to drug slang offers researchers and health workers an avenue by which to track patterns of drug use.

Read more: 'My friends are taking MDMA at raves and music festivals. Is it safe?'

A bit of history

Clinicians and people who study drug use have attempted to catalogue slang terms for drug use since the 1930s.

David Maurer, an American linguistics professor who studied the use of language in the American underworld, published the first glossary of drug slang terms in 1936. The aim was to guide law enforcement as well as to inform doctors, parents and teachers about drug use.

The definitions reflect the social and cultural values around drug-taking practices at the time. For example, Maurer’s glossary featured the term “to vipe”, meaning to smoke marijuana. The definition included how beginners were taught special smoking techniques by hostesses, likely sex workers.

Why is drug slang important?

The use of slang indicates a person uses drugs because they know the secret language of a subculture. With this in mind, researchers seek to identify drug subcultures through understanding language use.

In 1979, researchers created a drug slang association test to identify if the number of slang names people knew related to their use of a drug type. The authors found people in prison, who commonly used opiates, knew more slang words for heroin than college students did.

Read more: How the dictionary is totes taking up the vernacular

More recently, one study analysed Twitter posts to identify new slang. Another study used slang terms in Instagram hashtags to document drug use patterns.

For clinicians and researchers, slang offers insights into drug users’ beliefs and behaviours, which can in turn guide interventions. The slang words can be metaphors for the drug effects or appearance, giving health professionals an understanding of a person’s drug use experience.

Researchers also believe they get better results from surveys if they use the same language as people using drugs.

how drug slang affects the way we use and understand drugs The use of slang can indicate to others a person uses drugs. From shutterstock.com

Pingers

As we find ourselves at the height of music festival season, let’s look at a timely example.

MDMA (3,4- methylenedioxymethamphetamine), or ecstasy, is one of the drugs people take most commonly at music festivals. The term “pinger” (or pinga) is thought to be an Australian creation used to refer to MDMA.

Most festival goers attend few events and are only occasional users of illegal drugs, so they may be unfamiliar with slang names and what drug they refer to. The drug they purchase could be completely different to what they expected.

Read more: Explainer: what is nitrous oxide (or nangs) and how dangerous is it?

The first reference to pingers is reported to be in the glossary of an Australian surfing book published in 2003. More recently the word pinger has appeared in several pop culture dictionaries with examples related to drug use. For example:

>“I had so many pingers last night I was tripping balls”.

An Australian video game called Big City Earnez has players collecting “pingaz” – things that look like tablets – in different Melbourne suburbs and hiding from the police.

None of these examples refer to MDMA specifically, but there’s an assumption people know what the word pinger means, including the drug’s use and effects.

how drug slang affects the way we use and understand drugs Drug slang is part of the music festival vernacular. Yvette de Wit/Unsplash

And the term’s use has spread out of Australia. By 2012, Vice.com, a UK website that regularly reports on popular and emerging drug use, was using the term pinger to describe MDMA.

Slang can also describe ways drugs are used. “Shelving a pinger” refers to inserting a drug in the anus.

Buyer beware

A problem with relying on slang to identify drugs is meanings change over time. It took a few years for pinger to be used in the UK as slang for MDMA. In 2009 police in England and Wales were issued with a list of 3,000 words to learn so they could “stay ahead of criminals”. Pinger was not on the list but ping-on was listed as meaning opium and pingus as the prescription drug Rohypnol (a sedative and muscle relaxant).

Slang terms are also culturally specific. Not all countries use the same slang even when English is the main language. In Ireland “yoke” is a word used to refer to MDMA pills or capsules while “molly” is a common word in the United States. “Shelving a pinger” is called “boofing a roll” in the US. Beyond the likelihood of embarrassment, misunderstanding slang terms can increase the risk of drug-related harms.

Read more: History, not harm, dictates why some drugs are legal and others aren't

And even if you’re clear on the terminology, a label doesn’t mean a drug is necessarily what you think it is. A pinger may have MDMA in it, a combination of drugs or no drugs at all.

The risk of using slang is thinking you know what it means and not asking for clarification. If you’re buying pingers or another drug called by a slang name, it’s important to ask what it is.

Authors: Julaine Allan, Senior research fellow, Charles Sturt University

Read more http://theconversation.com/pingers-pingas-pingaz-how-drug-slang-affects-the-way-we-use-and-understand-drugs-129452

NEWS

Google and Facebook shouldn't subsidise journalism, but the government could

Jeff Chiu/APYou might have missed it – what with the biggest recession since the 1930s and a pandemic going on – but there may be big, and bad, changes happening...

COVID-19 has offered us an unexpected opportunity to help more people quit smoking

ShutterstockSmokers are worried. A respiratory disease is running rampant across the globe and people with unhealthy lifestyle habits appear to be especially vulnerable. We know smokers hospitalised with COVID-19 are...

who was Jeanne Barret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe?

A modern portrait of Jeanne Barret disguised as a man, based on the author's interpretation.Timothy Ide, Author providedIn 1765, a young, peasant woman left a remote corner of rural France...

Greyhound pups must be tracked from birth to death, so we know how many are slaughtered

ShutterstockIt’s been more than four years since New South Wales greyhound racing was rocked by a special inquiry that found overwhelming evidence of systemic animal cruelty, including mass killings. Overbreeding...

We looked at 35 years of rainfall and learnt how droughts start in the Murray-Darling Basin

The extreme, recent drought has devastated many communities around the Murray-Darling Basin, but the processes driving drought are still not well understood. Our new study helps to change this. We...

As a second wave of COVID looms in the UK, Australia is watching closely

Aaron Chown/AAPThe United Kingdom has already been battered by COVID-19, with about 410,000 cases and more than 41,000 deaths.But after some respite over summer — and entreaties to “Eat Out...

Testamentary trusts are one of the last truly outrageous means of avoiding tax

Scott Graham/UpsplashIt’s one thing to bring forward tax cuts, as the government is thinking of doing in the October budget.It’s another to leave wide open an arrangement that allows substantial...

Can Morrison use his 'bully pulpit' to inspire the confidence vital for economic recovery?

We’ve all observed Scott Morrison’s pragmatism in this pandemic but COVID has highlighted another notable feature of his political style.The prime minister is a great admirer of Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt...

Government proposes changes to smooth the path for borrowers

The government has announced reforms to facilitate an increased flow of credit to households and businesses.A key change will be that banks and other lenders will be able to rely...

Keating is right. The Reserve Bank should do more. It needs to aim for more inflation

Ashwin/ShutterstockFormer prime minister Paul Keating isn’t alone in wanting the Reserve Bank to do much more to ensure economic recovery.In an opinion piece for major newspapers he has said it...

COVID will leave Australia with smaller economy and older population: Frydenberg

Josh Frydenberg has painted a sombre picture of the outlook for the Australian economy, saying that by mid next year it is set to be 6% smaller than forecast at...

Expanding Victoria's police powers without robust, independent oversight is a dangerous idea

ERIK ANDERSON/AAPThe state of emergency that has been issued in Victoria during the pandemic is to be taken seriously. Police are undoubtedly one component of the state’s health response, needed...



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion













Popular articles from Modern Australian

Fitness Tips: 3 Ways to Stay in Shape At HomeWear a Mask and protect yourself in StyleWellness expert:  Cutting up your fruit cuts the goodness out of themRegain Your Natural Smile Getting Porcelain Crowns in MelbourneIs Photography Still Important In 2020?Thinking of Hiring a Boat? Check these Facts FirstDo You Know that Certain Serious Athletic Injuries Can Turn into Medical Malpractice?Most In-Demand Suburbs for Property Buyers in Australia Post Covid-19What Is Selective High School?Optimise Your Diet with Multitasking Nutrients What to Look for When Buying a Table SawWhat To Consider When Choosing A Rifle Scope You Actually NeedHow to Find Water LeaksDownsizing to move house – tricks and trapsBest 2020 & 2021 Honeymoon Spots