DEA: Emojis could signal drug use, sales

Courtesy Art A graphic, shared with the permission of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, displays emojis commonly used to indicate illegal drug sale or use.

ALPENA — Emojis, the small pictures often included in texts and other electronic messages, could communicate more than just “OK” or “I’m happy,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warns.

As part of a One Pill Can Kill campaign, the DEA recently released a graphic showing emojis commonly used by people attempting to distribute or sell illegal drugs.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, and others need an awareness of the symbols young people and adults may use to express an interest in drugs, according to Brian McNeal, public information officer for the DEA Detroit division.

Innocent-seeming symbols such as grapes, palm trees, and snowmen could indicate an interest in marijuana, cocaine, or other drugs, the DEA’s Emoji Drug Code graphic indicates.

The graphic shows a maple leaf as a universal symbol for drugs, with a cookie representing a large batch of drugs and the end of a power cord, among other symbols, indicating a dealer advertising his or her wares.

Emojis could appear on short-form social media videos popular on several social media platforms as well as in text and other messages, McNeal said.

The DEA launched the One Pill Can Kill campaign because of a striking increase in the number of counterfeit pills, sold on social media, that contain a lethal dose of the drug fentanyl.

Dealers today are creating pills identical to those sold by doctors but laced with other drugs, the DEA cautions. Medicine taken with a doctor’s prescription, following instructions, can be safely consumed, McNeal said.

“Any other pill, it’s not OK to take,” he said. “The results can be deadly.”


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