Teenagers are buying deadly drugs from strangers on social media — and they don’t even have to name the narcotic they’re looking for.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), tech-savvy teens simply message a sequence of emojis that symbolize the substance they’re after so that their dealer can avoid any kind of digital detection.
The secret codes also help youngsters keep their habits a secret from their parents, who likely have no idea what the emojis actually represent.
Now, the DEA has released a chart titled “Emoji Drug Code: Decoded ” to raise awareness about the cryptic set of symbols amid the soaring number of adolescent overdose deaths.
“This reference guide is intended to give parents, caregivers, educators and other influencers a better sense of how emojis are being used in conjunction with illegal drugs,” the federal agency wrote.
According to the chart, Percocet and oxycodone can be ordered simply by sending emojis of a pill, a blue dot and a banana.
Heroin, on the other hand, can soon be on a teen’s doorstep if they text an emoji of a brown heart and an emoji of a dragon.
The DEA claims there are emojis that symbolize a request for “high potency” drugs. If you see a bomb, firework or rocket ship emoji in your teen’s text chain, you might want to be on alert.
Heartbroken parents Stu and Deb Schmill wish they knew more about the dangers of digital drug orders before their 18-year-old daughter, Becca, died from an overdose in 2020.
According to the parents, the youngster used digital shorthand to order deadly drugs off Snapchat.
“We didn’t realize just how easy it was for her to have drugs delivered basically to our door,” dad Stu told NBC News.
Sadly, Schmill’s story is strikingly similar to many others across the country.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the overdose death rate for teenagers nearly doubled from 492 in 2019 to 954 in 2020. They jumped another 20% in 2021.
And it’s not just emojis that teenagers are using to avoid detection, with opaque slang terms also thrown into the mix.
Eric Feinberg, who works with the non-profit Coalition for a Safer Web, says there is a whole secret language used by teens and their dealers.
“The word ‘plug’ means ‘hook me up’” with drugs,” Feinberg told NBC News, “And misspelled words like “pilz” (pills), “xanaz” (Xanax), “cush” (marijuana) facilitate open discussion without triggering social media safeguards.”
Spokespeople from both Snapchat and Instagram told NBC News they “prohibit the sale of illicit drugs” on their platforms. Both companies further claimed they use cutting-edge technologies to “proactively” detect any accounts associated with drug dealers.
The Post has reached out to the social media apps for further comment.
Not only are drugs becoming easier to order for teenagers, they’re also becoming deadlier, according to a previous report published in The Post.
“There has been a huge rise in illicitly manufactured prescription pills that contain fentanyl, at least 30% of which have doses that can kill someone,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora D. Volkow stated in that article. “We believe this may be one of the factors that’s putting teenagers at a higher risk for overdose mortality.”
Back in January, a drug dealer was charged with murder after selling fentanyl to a 12-year-old girl who fatally overdosed. The tween had reportedly used a slang term to request her drug order.