Skip to content
Print Email Decrease Font Increase Font

AOD sector terminology

Slang, street names and cultural differences

AOD glossaries

Language, stigma and stereotypes

Common acronyms and abbreviations

People working in the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector will encounter a range of specialised terms in their everyday work. This article describes some issues relating to language, provides links to glossaries and explains some popular acronyms.

Slang, street names and cultural differences

Slang, street names and different cultural names are often used by clients to describe drugs. This can be confusing for AOD workers as one drug can have many different names depending on the client.

Take cannabis for example. The proper clinical term in Australia is cannabis, but in other countries the clinical term is marijuana. Slang and street names can include grass, hash, pot, weed, dope, reefer, joint, cones, skunk and many others. In other cultures, cannabis can have another name altogether. In Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, it is often known as yarndi, whereas in Northern Territory communities, it is known as ganja or gunja.

Another example is legal highs. Legal highs are often not legal, so a better term for them is new psychoactive drugs (NPSs) because their chemical structure is constantly changing to stay ahead of the law. NPSs are also referred to by clients as synthetic cannabis, herbal highs, party pills, synthetic cocaine, herbal ecstasy, bath salts, plant fertiliser, herbal incense and research chemicals.

Once you are aware of the language your client group uses, it's helpful to reflect that language back to them. And if you are unsure about what drug they are referring to, there are a range of tools such as glossaries which can help you identify different drugs by their name.

AOD glossaries

AOD workers often have to navigate a huge volume of technical terms and acronyms, especially when they are starting out in the sector. Below is a selection of key Australian AOD glossaries.

ADIN Glossary

The Australian Drug Information Network (ADIN) glossary is one of the most complete collections of common words and their meanings specific to the AOD field.

Australian Indigenous Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre Glossary

This glossary has been developed to define terms that are particularly relevant to those working to reduce harms from AOD use in Aboriginal communities.

SMS service

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) has also developed a SMS service which allows the identification of a drug from its slang name as well as providing brief effects and links to further information and help. To identify a drug, text the name to 0439 TELL ME (0439 835 563).

There are also a number of international AOD glossaries that may be useful if you come across a term you don't know.

WHO Lexicon of Alcohol and Drug Terms

In 1994 the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a glossary which provides a set of definitions of terms about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It covers both social and health aspects of AOD use.

Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group

The Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group put together a glossary of AOD terms with definitions taken from DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the WHO Lexicon of Alcohol and Drug Terms, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (USA) among others. Due to the wide range of sources, it is one of the most complete lists of terms compiled for the AOD sector.

Language, stigma and stereotypes

It is important to be aware that the language you use can enforce stigma, stereotypes or discrimination towards people who use alcohol or other drugs. The fear of discrimination and stigma can be a reason for people to not seek or undertake treatment. 

Try to avoid language that may imply any bias or judgment. A good approach is to emphasise the person rather than the condition.

  • Refer to people who use drugs as just that—a person or persons who uses drugs—rather than referring to them as a drug user, user, addict or similar
  • Use dependence or dependent instead of addiction or addicted
  • Use young people instead of kids, teenagers, adolescents or youths
  • Use substance misuse rather than substance abuse

Common acronyms and abbreviations

The following is a list of common acronyms and abbreviations that you may encounter while working in the AOD sector.

AA Alcoholics Anonymous
A&E Accident and Emergency
AAS Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid/s
ABI Acquired Brain Injury
ADF Alcohol and Drug Foundation
ADIN Australian Drug Information Network
ADIS Alcohol and Drug Information Service
AIHW Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
AIVL Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League
ANACAD Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs
AOD Alcohol and Other Drugs
ATS Amphetamine-Type Substance/s
AUDIT Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test
BAC Blood Alcohol Concentration
CLD Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
DAMEC Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre
DSM Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
DUI Driving under the influence
EBP Evidence-based practice
EDRS Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System
FARE Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education
FASD Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
GHB Gamma hydroxy butyrate
HGH Human Growth Hormone
IDRS Illicit Drug Reporting System
LSD Lysergic acid diethylamide
MDA Methylenedioxyamphetamine
MDMA Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy)
MMT Methadone Maintenance Therapy/Treatment
MSIC Medically Supervised Injecting Centre
NCPIC National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre
NDARC National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
NDS National Drug Strategy
NDSHS National Drug Strategy Household Survey
NHMRC National Health and Medical Research Council
NPS New Psychoactive Substance(s)
NSP Needle and Syringe Program
PHAA Public Health Association of Australia
PIEDs Performance and image enhancing drugs
PMA, PMMA Paramethoxyamphetamine
PWID Person who injects drugs
SIF Supervised Injecting Facility
TC Therapeutic Community
THC Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
WHO World Health Organization


Last updated: 16 August 2016

Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit for more