How Drug Dealers May Be Using Emoji To Sell Drugs

Drew Lewis
|
May 18, 2022

Every generation has its slang, and Gen Z is no exception. The use of emojis became quite popular with Gen Z. And now they’re using emoji to sell drugs and to generally talk about them with friends. They bank on the fact that most adults don't have a sense of how emojis work.

To any unsuspecting adult, the emojis look ordinary and harmless. However, they are often being used to buy and sell illicit drugs. 

Drug abuse is prevalent among teens and young adults. With the current technology, they can easily purchase any illegal drug from social media pages run by drug traffickers. With a simple direct message (mostly with an emoji or more), the drugs of choice, including crack cocaine, are delivered to them in just a few minutes. Often, they make payments in cash, so you are unlikely to notice something is off.

Every drug dealer targeting teens have perfected the use of emojis, now commonly known as the emoji drug code. By doing so, they easily advertise their products on social media. Drug-themed social media posts are often not flagged or taken down because it is difficult to differentiate them from regular posts. 

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently released an emoji drug decoder to help educators, parents, and caregivers decode the emojis their loved ones use and potentially save lives.

DEA public information officer Brian McNeal said that when there is a case of overdose and no way to trace the source, you can go through the phones and computers of your loved ones to see the emojis used in conversations with drug dealers. The emoji drug decoder can help you identify the drugs they overdosed on.

The emojis

According to the DEA, emojis are now commonly used as dealer advertising for high potency drugs. A select few are currently universal symbols for large batches of drugs. The DEA revealed that they started looking at social media risk factors after identifying several overdoses.

After going through the phones of the deceased, they noticed that specific emojis kept showing up in conversations. Later, they managed to decode the emojis. 

Shane Catone, a Deputy Special Agent in charge of the DEA's Chicago Division, said that traffickers started communicating with emojis because their target market is teenagers who spend most of their time on social media.

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The traffickers advertise their contraband on various social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and messaging apps like WhatsApp.

Some of the emojis are straightforward to figure out. For example, the pill emoji represents fake prescription medications or pills.

Other emojis may be difficult to decode. For instance, a key emoji represents cocaine; a brown heart represents heroin and a blue heart meth. Another difficult emoji to decode is a chocolate candy bar that represents Xanax.

The banana emoji is commonly used as code for Oxycodone, whereas a Christmas tree, palm tree, clover, and cloud for marijuana. The maple leaf emoji is also code for marijuana.

Below is a summary of the emojis and what they mean for ease of reference.

  • 🌿, 🍁, 🎄, 🍃, 🥦, 🍀, 🌴 — Marijuana
  • ❄️, 🥥,🤧, 🔑,⛄,🎱 — Cocaine
  • 💉,🐉,🐎 ,🎯 — Heroin
  • 🍬, ❤⚡,🤯 — MDMA
  • 🍼,🍇 ,💜,🔮 — Cough syrup
  • 💎, 🏔, ❄ — Crystal meth
  • 🍄 — Psilocybin or "magic" mushrooms
  • 🔌 — A plug, i.e., a drug dealer or someone who can "hook you up" with contraband
  • 💊 — Can be used to mean prescription pills, drugs in general, or heroin
  • 🥧 — A large batch of drugs
  • 💨, 🚬 — Smoking a joint
  • ⛽ — Gassed, i.e., intoxicated. It can also refer to high-quality marijuana
  • ⚗️ — Used to indicate a bong
  • 🔥 — To "blaze" a joint or to be "lit," meaning intoxicated
  • 🚀 — Can mean high-quality or being very intoxicated

The emojis are not a conclusive indication of illegal drug use. However, the emojis combined with behavioral change or a low performance at work or school may indicate that your loved one is struggling with drug addiction.

Prescription pills

While addressing the use of emojis to buy or sell drugs, DEA public information officer Brian McNeal said the pills drug dealers sell on social media are counterfeit prescription drugs laced with fatal amounts of fentanyl.

The pills range from normal-looking ones to colorful ones that resemble kids' vitamins. According to McNeal, the colorful pills often contain meth.

Drug dealers often transport the fake prescription pills in bags of candy. Often, the laced prescription pills result in overdoses.

Common drug slang terms

Other than emojis, teens and young adults struggling with substance abuse use slang terms to refer to drugs. Here are a few drug slang terms used in day-to-day conversations and their meaning.

  • Pen- vape for marijuana and tobacco.
  • Cart- cartridge for a vaporizer.
  • Plug-dealer.
  • Gas-marijuana
  • School bus- A 2-mg Xanax bar.
  • Hulk- A 2-mg generic benzodiazepine bar.
  • Dabbing- inhaling concentrated cannabis oil. Usually, addicts drop the oil on a hot surface and allow it to vaporize as they inhale.
  • Snow-cocaine.
  • Special K- ketamine.
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The emoji chart is not conclusive, and it has the potential to grow exponentially. For this reason, it is a good idea to monitor your children's activities on social media. Since drug dealers target teenagers on social media, the ads are likely to pop up on their phones. It would also be best to periodically check any updates on the chart from the DEA's website.

If you can't check their phones, monitor your children's behavior. You are likely to notice a behavior change when they use illegal drugs. You can also use the emoji drug chart to start a conversation about drug and substance abuse dangers.

Help Your Loved One Get Addiction Treatment

The emoji drug dealers are using may seem like a harmless way to communicate, but they could be putting your loved ones in danger. If you suspect your loved one is using drugs and communicating with dealers through emoji, or if you notice sign of addiction call for help.

There is no shame in seeking out assistance. Addiction is a difficult disease to overcome alone. With the right resources and types of treatment, your loved one can get the support they need to break free from the grip of addiction and start on the path to recovery.

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