Heroin addicts come up with very creative alternative names for heroin, no matter what country or city they live in. These names change on a semi-regular basis so that casual eavesdroppers (which may include undercover narcotics officers) will not know that the stuff they are talking about is heroin. In fact, the use of the word “heroin” to actually refer to heroin is spoken only by people working in criminal justice.
Heroin is referred to as “smack”, “gear”, “golden brown”, “brown”, “dope”, “ten bag” (referring to a bag of heroin that costs ten pounds) or even extremely broad words like “stuff”, “crap” or “sh*t”. Some terms that used to used but are no longer generally used include “horse”, “Harry”, “H” or just about any word or name beginning with the letter “h”. However, this is usually considered a giveaway to any unwanted eavesdroppers and use of words beginning with “h” as slang for heroin has faded.
There is also a term called a “wash out” that you may hear British heroin addicts use when looking to score. This isn’t referring to heroin but to liquid methadone that is prescribed to treat heroin addicts. They are distributed in glass or plastic bottles. There is still some liquid coating the insides of the bottle, so a heroin addict can fill an empty methadone bottle with water or a saline solution, shake it and then inject that. It reportedly helps to ease heroin withdrawal pains.
Cockney rhyming slang is an ever evolving linguistic code used all over the UK and not just within the sound of Bow Bells. They often base the rhyme of street slang for heroin rather than trying to find a word pairing that rhymes with “heroin”. For example, there are a couple of Cockney rhyming slang phrases for “smack”. These include “wellies and mac” and “Uncle Mac”.
Street slang for heroin changes rapidly, depending on the dealer, the area and how often it is patrolled. One slang name in one part of a major city may be different from another part of the city. So, sadly, this list is not complete. But some of the street slang for heroin includes “dope”, “sh*t”, “horse”, “white horse”, “Charlie horse”, “chick”, “brother”, “antifreeze”, “Aries”, “Aunt Hazel”, ‘birdie powder”, “bird sh*t”, “bird”, “boy”, “bomb”, “Witch Hazel”, “sweet Jesus” and “scat”. Some Latino influenced slang includes “blanco”, “chica” and “cheva”.
There are also street slang phrases for types of heroin, quality of heroin or heroin mixed with other drugs. These become amazingly intricate. These include the already household name “speedball” (a mixture of heroin and cocaine or heroin and speed). The one to keep especially far from is “red rum”, (murder spelled backwards), which indicates a really poor or a potentially lethal batch of heroin. Perhaps the most famous person killed by an overdose of red rum was Jonathan Malvoin, the keyboard player for the Smashing Pumpkins.
About.com. “Heroin Drug Slang.” http://parentingteens.about.com/cs/herpes/l/blsldicher.htm
Probert Encyclopedia. “Slang (U.)”
“Police Say Musician’s Death Leads to Run on Heroin Brand.” Randy Kennedy. “The New York Times.” July 15, 1996. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F07EFD81E39F936A25754C0A960958260
Personal experience (author was homeless for 5 years)