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.
The DEA has released a chart titled “Emoji Drug Code: Decoded” to raise awareness about the cryptic set of symbols to stop the illegal orders in their tracks.
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.
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],'” said Feinberg on TODAY. “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.