Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center warns of emojis symbolizing potential drug activity


COLUMBUS – The Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC) has released a public safety bulletin alerting parents that emojis are being used by youth on social media and electronic communications to market, sell, and buy illegal drugs.

Emojis used in drug communications commonly refer to the physical, psychological, or physiological characteristics of the drugs. The presence of these emojis in communications can be one indication of possible drug activity, though it is important to note that these meanings are not definitive and emojis can be used in other ways.

“The use of emojis in this manner is a nationwide trend, and our analysts are seeing it here in Ohio as they analyze electronic devices seized in ongoing drug investigations,” said Cynthia Peterman, ONIC executive director. “Although use of these emojis is most often harmless, it’s important that parents keep this alert in mind, especially if their child is showing other signs of withdrawal or drug abuse.”

Emojis can refer to specific types of drugs such as a peeled banana for oxycodone/Percocet, a step ladder for alprazolam/Xanax, a snail for fentanyl, or a palm tree for marijuana.

Emojis are also used in generic ways to denote a drug dealer with an electrical outlet plug or the price of a drug by using a concert ticket stub. Other general references include using a flame, gasoline pump, or goat to depict the high potency of a drug and an astronaut, rocket, or face with an exploding brain to describe the euphoria of drug use.

To report a drug tip to ONIC, call 833-OHIO-NIC (644-6642).

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