Vendors using emojis to sell pills or cocaine – look for these codes

A baby bottle, a heart and a bunch of purple grapes. If you spotted these emojis in a text message on your kid’s phone, you probably wouldn’t think anything of it.

But this series of seemingly innocent symbols might actually be your child’s way of signaling that they’re in the market to get high on cough syrup.

A pill, a candy bar and a bus? This combination could be the starting point for an illegal Xanax transaction.

“These various drug organizations are always trying to be one step ahead in order to avoid detection and make it easier for their customers to order drugs,” Timothy McMahon, supervisor special agent for the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told New Jersey 101.5 .

The DEA is once again reminding parents, caregivers, educators and others to be aware of emoji drug codes, which the agency has been able to “decode” over time. The agency’s first warning was issued in 2021.

“A lot of people are afraid to go to certain areas to buy drugs, so it’s very convenient to use social media,” McMahon said.

Courtesy of Townsquare Media/DEA

Courtesy of Townsquare Media/DEA

Townsquare Media/DEA

Townsquare Media/DEA

Townsquare Media/DEA

Townsquare Media/DEA

Courtesy of Townsquare Media/DEA

Courtesy of Townsquare Media/DEA

The DEA points out that their reference manual is only an example and not a complete list. Emoji alone shouldn’t be indicative of illegal activity, the agency says, but talking to a loved one may be necessary when those symbols are coupled with other signs, like a sudden loss of income or a change in behavior or appearance.

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“We’ve been working with the various social media companies to get a handle on that and get them to do a little bit more to track what’s going on,” McMahon said.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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