Emojis are small digital icons that act as emotional clues; they are used to express ideas or emotions in text and can convey many different tones of voice including sadness, sarcasm, comedy, and frustration. Many of us compose creative text messages or social media captions using emojis, like using the face that is cry-laughing when we’re laughing out loud or posting a vacation picture with the palm tree, sunshine, and ocean wave emojis. As harmless as these little pictures can be, emojis are now being used to buy and sell drugs.
Drug Codes on Social Media
Teens are using emojis on social media to describe to others what types of drugs they have available or what drugs they are looking for. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) decoded these drug codes in the table below. Emojis can be used individually to indicate certain types of drugs, or in groups to communicate more complex messages; for example, a dealer can use a combination of emojis to indicate that a large shipment of a drug is expected.
This coding system is especially dangerous because fake prescription pills sold on social media are sometimes laced with fentanyl—which can be deadly. Parents and caregivers should be aware of these codes and pay attention to the content their children engage with on social media. If you notice your child using drug codes, it’s time to take action.
DEA Emoji Drug Code Chart
Drug Slang Terms
In addition to drug emoji codes, there are various slang terms for drugs. You might hear people say they are “riding the wave” if they are under the influence of drugs. Drug slang terms derivate from their physical appearances, the effects they have on the body, their usual packaging and sometimes people or places that are meant to disguise the subject matter. Marijuana, for example, has many slang nicknames, like pot, reefer, rope, weed, grass, and Mary Jane—just to name a few. Cocaine is known as coke, blow, crack, snow, and Lady Snow. As drug culture evolves, drug codes and slang change with it; you can stay updated on drug slang terms by visiting the DEA’s website. Always keep an eye out on social media and listen to the words that your child and their friends are using to communicate!
What should I do if my child is using drugs?
If you suspect that your child is using drugs, have an open conversation with them. Ask questions and gather information in a non-judgmental way. Next, talk to their physician. Most doctors are comfortable having a confidential discussion with teenagers about risk-taking behavior and deciding whether it is normal or points to a more serious problem. Ultimately, your child should receive a comprehensive substance abuse assessment by a specially trained chemical dependency counselor who is comfortable with adolescents.
Parents and caregivers can always call the poison center for free at 1-800-222-1222 with questions or concerns about children and substances. The Central Ohio Poison Center (COPC) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of two poison centers in the state of Ohio and one of 55 centers nationwide. COPC serves 64 of 88 counties in Ohio.
Natalie I. Rine, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP, is Director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
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