“Emoji Drug Code” decoded in DEA graphic


Four students at the Hays Consolidated Independent School District have died from fentanyl poisoning in recent months – two 15-year-olds and two 17-year-olds.

Since then, Hays County and local law enforcement have formed a task force with the Drug Enforcement Administration to stop the proliferation of counterfeit drugs, often laced with lethal doses of fentanyl.

As part of its One Pill Can Kill awareness program, the DEA released several graphics detailing the hidden meaning of emojis in relation to drug trafficking.

The latest iteration of the graphic, released partly in video format on Twitter in January, reveals emojis commonly used to discuss drugs.

Some are more noticeable than others, like a mushroom symbolizing “mushroom mushrooms” or a pill emoji symbolizing a variety of pill-based narcotics like Percocet, Xanax, or Adderall.

Other symbols, such as a snowflake or a puffer fish for cocaine, come from traditional drug references.

Some — like an electrical plug symbolizing a “plug” or a drug dealer, or a maple leaf on the Canadian flag symbolizing drugs in general — might be unfamiliar to concerned parents.

The commonly used flame and “100” emojis can represent oxycodone or marijuana, or even indicate the number of pills in a shipment, according to an older version of the graphic.

The DEA encouraged parents and educators to talk to their children about the dangers of counterfeit prescription drugs because they are “available to anyone with a smartphone.”

“Each of our high schools has been beset by either a suspected fentanyl death or a serious overdose requiring Narcan,” Hays CISD said in a statement. “Students at some of our middle schools have also been affected.”

The older and less readily available version of the graphic includes a brief description of why the graphic was created, but also warns parents that the “list is not exhaustive” and that the emojis included are a “representative sample”.

“Emojis alone should not be indicative of illegal activity,” the graphic reads. Rather, using the emojis in conjunction with a change in behavior, appearance, or income “should be a reason to start an important conversation.”

The more recent graphic, now used by the DEA to educate parents and educators, includes a similar disclaimer, but in much smaller text at the bottom of the graphic.

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