A lot of drugs come with what you might call rudimentary samizdat branding. Ecstasy pills regularly get imprinted with pop culture references for batch designation, for example.
But mostly, illicit drug names are a part of criminal anti-language, or at least they begin as such. If you don’t want the police or the normies knowing you’re doing a drug deal, you switch terms for things they won’t understand. Language becomes a club for members only and you need the passwords for entry. Cocaine becomes Charlie and so on. Even after the mask of anti-language slips and the terms become commonplace, they tend to stick around, because what’s criminal and taboo is also often cool.
In some refreshing instances, a kind of anti-branding occurs. Cannabinoids are dope because they make one stupid and sleepy, for example. Amphetamines are speed or whizz because they accelerate perception and energy levels, famously burning up tomorrow’s energy today.
The powerful drug scopolamine is known as Devil’s Breath, because once inhaled or ingested it renders the victim entirely suggestible. Usually, it is administered during a honey trap (often via lipstick) prior to robbery. I always liked the name Philip K Dick gave his fatally addictive substance in ‘A Scanner Darkly’ – Slow Death, the perfect combination of taboo sales pitch and truth in advertising.
But if ever I felt like viscerally objecting to drug nomenclature, it wasn’t when someone impressed cartoon figures like Donald Duck on a tab of E. Rather it was today, when I read about the drug WY which is wreaking havoc in India. WY stands for ‘The World is Yours’, a complete reversal of what drugs of abuse actually do, which is steal the world from those addicted.
This amphetamine/caffeine combo is disproportionately harming the already marginalised queer community in India, according to Vice magazine. A more insidious untruth I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered than this empty promise from drug dealers to fragile youth.