A series of emojis that are also used in illicit drug deals

The Frightening Link Between Emojis and 1,000,000s of Lethal Fentanyl Pills

Just when you think you’ve got social media, messaging, and texts finally all figured out—including how to use a few basic emojis and still look savvy—things evolve. Emojis have developed into a complex language of their own. From 😂 to 🤦‍♀️, these pictures paint…well, maybe not 1000 words, but they at least depict a couple of emotions.

They can also be used to set up a drug deal.

Wait, what? 😮

Yes, those cute little pictures are being used in texts, on messaging apps, and other social media platforms to turn what looks like an innocent conversation into an order for illicit drugs, including delivery—a little like a pizza, only deadlier.

Emojis are so ubiquitous, that a nefarious emoji conversation can be hard to pick out, unless you’re aware of the duplicate meanings. Sometimes a ❄️ emoji can innocently mean “snow,” you know, the white stuff falling from the sky. Other times, it means “snow,” the white stuff snorted to get high…as in cocaine.

So, when you look at your kid’s texts and see ⛷️ (another emoji for cocaine), how do you know if the planned meetup is for an fun afternoon on the slopes or to snort a few lines?

What you should know about emojis and illicit drugs:  

  • Emojis alone are not damning

One of the funniest threads on Reddit related to emojis was regarding how easily the innocent use of these symbols in everyday conversations can be misconstrued. It was pointed out that someone texting about eating a chocolate bar and watching it snow out the window could easily post:  

Evidently I’m addicted to cocaine ❄️and Xanax🍫 !!😂

The DEA suggests that before assuming the worst, it’s important to take into account the bigger picture (no pun intended). This should not only include those questionable emoji strings, but also changes in behavior, changes in grades or social interaction, and sudden changes in finances.

  • It’s not the emojis, but the string of emojis (and the responses) that count

The idea of drug deals via social apps may leave you scratching your head, but users know how to create a series of emojis that translate into specific jargon. The sending and receiving of messages, in sequence, need to make sense to those deciphering their intent. Otherwise, instead of a delivery of ZBars*, you might actually end up with, well, a melted chocolate bar delivered to your porch.

Conversations like 🍪🚀🍫 can mean a large batch of potent “Xanax” is available. This 📦🪂can mean the drug package has been delivered. Or this 🍫🚌 can mean a supply of “Xanax” is being brought to school today. Or maybe your kid is really just wanting to get a chocolate bar from his friend at school in trade for that healthy lunch you sent. 😂

  • Different emojis are used in different geographies

The DEA has published a drug emoji decoder:

A poster from the DEA listing out emojis used as symbols for illicit drug deals, listing a variety of emojis and drugs, including Percocet, oxycodone, xanax, Adderall, cocaine, heroin, meth, MDMA, mushrooms,and marijuana

This decoder is a really good place to start, but keep in mind that emojis may vary by locale, similar to how drug street slang may differ from town to town. This has been openly discussed in online chats, where some users have agreed with the DEA emoji decoder, while others argued different symbols were more popularly used. For example, the emoji for marijuana is 🌲 in some places, while in others it’s 🍃.

DIfferent platforms and apps also show emojis differently. In trying to copy/paste into this article, for example, the emojis change from what I originally copied, similar to fonts that don’t appear the same in all locations.

  • Texts may look fine, but darn those hidden chats

Even if visible messages seem innocent enough, many apps are used to create private conversations, these days. Parents, believing they have a handle on their kid’s Facebook or Instagram feeds, often have no idea about these “below the radar” conversation threads.

😱 !

Popular platforms, like SnapChat, have long been used to hide private conversations. These apps offer a high level of anonymity, including the blocking of screenshots and the automatic disappearance of conversations after a set period of time. Today, an even wider array of platforms, including Facebook Messenger, Tik Tok, and YouTube, are used for these private conversations. They’re also used increasingly for drug transactions, due to the ability to operate in plain sight and yet maintain privacy.  

Even dating apps aren’t immune and are being used to create a very “different” kind of meet-up. For example, a recent sting operation on Grindr resulted in over 60 drug-related arrests in operation “Swipe Left for Meth.”  

To further enhance anonymity of drug transactions, some deals are partly conducted on one app, then completed on a second app. For example, a drug sale conversation with a 🔌(dealer) begun on Instagram may move to What’s App to finalize 📦🪂 details.

Emojis and code words may be laced into these conversations, also, to add another layer of privacy and make it difficult to decipher the meaning.

  • What’s in a name?

Don’t be surprised If you get unexpected messages or texts with a string of emojis that look like a drug deal offer. On some apps, users report getting multiple unsolicited drugs offers daily. The sender’s name is often coded with either emojis or letters, signaling the intent.

  • The 🔌emoji in the name can mean drug dealer,❤️ offers ecstacy, and 💙advertises meth.
  • A random capital “T” in the sender’s name can be code for selling “Tina,” one street name for crystal methamphetamine (meth).
  • One dealer recently arrested in Arizona used “Fetty” as part of his name to advertise his fentanyl pill sales.
A grey and black skull and crossbone emoji

Why drug emojis should just be the skull-and-crossbones

Apart from sounding silly, these cute emojis combined with the ubiquitous access to cellphones and social media, have brought drug dealers right to the palm of any kid’s hand (and into your home). With the rise in fentanyl-tainted street drugs, the risk that these dealers are selling deadly products is very high.

Counterfeit vs real oxycodone pills (DEA)
  • Fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look nearly identical to real prescription drugs, including “oxycodone,” “Adderall,” “Vicodin,” and “Percocet.”
  • Upwards of 40% of counterfeit “oxycodone” and “Xanax” confiscated at drug busts have contained lethal amounts of fentanyl.
  • Street drugs like cocaine and ecstasy have been increasing found to contain fentanyl.
  • Even marijuana has been linked to fentanyl overdoses.

The old smile and wink that “teens will experiment” is now tantamount to supporting playing Russian Roulette with drugs. Unfortunately, often the first time some people even hear about this hidden fentanyl danger is when they lose a loved one to the drug.

THIS is what those cute little emojis could be advertising:

While not all drug deals use these cute, innocent looking pictures, emojis have helped contribute to the illicit drug use surge that led to over 100,000 overdose deaths last year, alone. Many of these deaths involved accidental fentanyl use through tainted drug supplies. And the problem has continued to escalate in recent months.

  • Stats you need to know:  
    • In a recent safety surge in Arizona, 1500 pounds of fentanyl powder** and over 8 million fake pills were seized, much coming through the southern border, headed across Arizona to other parts of the USA.
      • 46 overdoses and 39 overdose deaths were directly linked to these drug sources before they could be seized.
        • Of these, 76 cases involved drug deals via social media apps

What’s in a number**?

For those of you whipping out calculators, here’s what some of the numbers above mean:

1 pound fentanyl makes ~ 225,000 lethal doses

1500 pounds x 225,000 =~340 million lethal doses

Yes, your math IS right:

That is enough to kill every. single. person. in the USA …with some pills left over.

Kinda makes those 8 million fake pills almost seem meaningless, doesn’t it?

What YOU can do:

Arm yourself with knowledge, then go do something with it to help others.

  • Learn about the use of emojis by the illicit drug market
  • Learn more about the trends in social media apps. We have ‘em, but understanding what your kids are being exposed to is essential.
  • Check out these other sources of information:
  • Openly talk with your children- let them come to you with questions and know there is an open door. Don’t judge them, teach them. See this article for more information.
  • Reach out to friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they are aware of the problem.  
    • Don’t shy away from these overwhelming numbers of drugs coming into the US. Dive into ways you can help in your own community and in the US.
  • Share this information with others.
    • Here is the link to copy this information and email, Tweet, text, or post to those you care about.

Comments and Such:

Did you find the information here helpful? Were you aware of the widespread use of emojis in drug deals? or the blatant use in popular apps? Share in the comments.

(Key Words: Fentanyl, overdoses, emojis, social media, drug deals on smartphones, DEA, Arizona, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, xanax, zbars, oxycodone, percocet, vicodin, Adderall)

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