Dealers Using Emoji to Sell Pills, Cocaine — Watch Out for These Codes
A baby bottle, a heart, and a bunch of purple grapes. If you spotted those emoji in a text message on your kid's phone, you'd probably think nothing of it.
But that lineup of seemingly innocent symbols could actually be your child's way of signaling that they're in the market to get high on cough syrup.
A pill, a chocolate bar, and a bus? That combo could be the launching point for an illegal transaction of Xanax.
"These different drug organizations, they're always trying to stay one step ahead, to avoid detection and to make things easier for their customers to order drugs," Timothy McMahon, supervisory special agent for the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the Townsquare News Network.
The DEA is once again reminding parents, caregivers, educators, and others to be aware of emoji drug codes that the agency has been able to "decode" over time. The agency's first warning was announced in 2021.
"A lot of people are afraid of going into certain areas to buy drugs, so it's very convenient to use social media," McMahon said.
The DEA notes its reference guide is just a sample, not an all-inclusive list. Emoji on their own shouldn't be indicative of illegal activity, the agency says, but a conversation with a loved one may be necessary if these symbols are coupled with other signs such as a sudden loss of income or a change in behavior or appearance.
"We've been working with the different social media companies, trying to get a handle on this, trying to get them to do a little bit more as far as tracking what's going on," McMahon said.