The Feds Published a List of Emoji Code for Drugs

The Feds Published a List of Emoji Code for Drugs

Think those emojis your teen is using are harmless? Think again, says the Drug Enforcement Agency—especially if there's a maple leaf involved.

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Image for article titled The Feds Published a List of Emoji Code for Drugs
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

As someone who is officially turning 30 this year, I have long ago come to terms with the fact that I am an Old. Should you need proof, I had to ask the youth in our Gizmodo Slack what BDE, or “Big Dick Energy,” was this week as I wasn’t sure if it was literal, figurative, and available for use by all.

That being said, you can imagine my face of utter confusion when I came across the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “emoji drug code” on Twitter earlier this week. According to the DEA, teens are using emojis of crystal balls (🔮) to buy meth and blowfish (🐡) to buy cocaine. And if you think they’re using the maple leaf (🍁) to talk about the lovely neighboring Canada, oh ho ho, you are mighty wrong. The agency says this is the universal symbol for drugs.

The DEA’s guide is aimed at parents, caregivers, and other people in teens’ lives, although the agency notes that the list is not all-inclusive. Rather, the list is a representative sample of emojis found in DEA investigations.

Hey, I am all for stopping teens from doing illegal drugs. That stuff can kill you. However, I can’t help but wonder how many parents will be like me and think, “A purple heart is code for cough syrup? I thought that was a reference to BTS.” I mean, they might be too confused to react. Take a look at the emojis used for prescription drugs, dealers, and other drugs like MDMA and marijuana and see for yourself.

(Disclaimer: I am not a parent, so who knows. Maybe parents are more discerning.)

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Emojis of Dealer Advertising

Emojis of Dealer Advertising

A dollar bill emoji, money bag emoji, face with dollar signs for eyes emoji, crown emoji, and plug emoji are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

Apparently, drug dealers have also gotten into the emoji game. While the first three emojis used by dealers make sense, I continue to be flabbergasted by the crown. Is the dealer a king? Why?

I was also confused by the plug and originally thought it was a reference to a phone charger, which made no sense. Then something clicked inside my brain and I got it: hook up.

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Emojis for Percocet and Oxycodone

Emojis for Percocet and Oxycodone

A pill emoji, a blue circle emoji, a banana emoji, and the emoji of the letter "P" in a blue square is shown.
Image: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

A blue circle? Is it because the pills are blue? What’s a banana got to do with illegal drugs? Also, I would not have associated the blue “P” with Percocet. Instead, I would have thought the dealer wanted me to pay for parking or something.

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Emojis for Xanax

Emojis for Xanax

Emojis of a pill, a chocolate bar, and a bus are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

Again, pill emoji. OK, there are lots of pills in the world, so that doesn’t really tell me much. When it comes to chocolate and the bus, I still don’t get it. As someone who has taken Xanax in the past (legally prescribed by a doctor for anxiety), I didn’t feel like I was eating chocolate or on a bus.

Oh, a trip? That makes sense.

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Emojis for Adderall

Emojis for Adderall

Emojis of a pill and a train with the letter "A" next it are shown. The latter is meant to communicate "A-train."
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

I think this is one of the only drug codes I understood right off the bat. However, when it comes to “A-Train,” my mind automatically goes to the character from The Boys, not Adderall.

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Signal for High Potency Drugs

Signal for High Potency Drugs

Emojis of a rocket, a bomb, and an explosion are shown.
Image: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

Maybe it’s because I’m a reporter or because I spend too much time on Twitter, but I would associate the rocket emoji with dogecoin, Elon Musk, or Wall Street Bets. As for the bomb, well, there are unfortunately lots of countries setting off bombs nowadays.

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Universal Code for Drugs

Universal Code for Drugs

An emoji of a maple leaf is shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

Before, the maple leaf only signaled good things, like syrup or Canada. Now I will always wonder if the person using it is referring to drugs. 💔

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A ‘Large Batch’ of Drugs

A ‘Large Batch’ of Drugs

An emoji of a chocolate chip cookie is shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

This one makes a bit of sense, if only because the teens of my youth and the young adults at university were obsessed with weed brownies. In this case, though, the cookie doesn’t refer to marijuana, according to the DEA, but instead means “large batch.”

Huh.

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Emojis for Meth

Emojis for Meth

Emojis of a crystal ball, blue heart, jewel, and test tube are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

I swear I had absolutely no idea what sort of hidden language I was stumbling upon here. Does meth let you see the future?? Blue vibes? Put a ring on it? The test tube is the only thing that makes sense.

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Emojis for Cocaine

Emojis for Cocaine

Emojis of a snowflake, cloud with rain, snowman, jewel, eight ball, key, face with tongue out, and blowfish are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

I feel like the only reason I got the snowman reference was because of the snowflake that came before it, otherwise I probably would have asked myself, “Is Frosty a dealer now??” Also, how the heck does a blowfish reference cocaine? Blowfish... blow... oh.

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Emojis for Heroin

Emojis for Heroin

Emojis of a brown heart and a dragon are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

My mind is utterly blank. If someone sent me this, I would assume they were trying to be nice or excited about House of the Dragon.

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Emojis for MDMA and Mollies

Emojis for MDMA and Mollies

Emojis of a heart, candy, a red cross, a pill, and a lightning bolt are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

Again, the heart. Why are you people using hearts to reference drugs? That’s rude! OK, I get the candy reference. As far as the lightning bolt, are we trying to tell people they’re wizards?

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Emojis for Marijuana

Emojis for Marijuana

Emojis of a face with its mouth open and a four leaf clover are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve been spending way too much time at home because it’s too damn hot to go outside. Maybe that’s why when I see these emojis, I just think of how nice it would be to go and mingle with nature.

Additionally, I have lived through the year of our Lord 2020 so the only thing I can think of when I see the dashing away emoji (💨) are potential coronavirus particles leaving someone’s nose and mouth. Eek.

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Emojis for Cough Syrup

Emojis for Cough Syrup

Emojis of grapes, a purple heart, and a baby bottle are shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

I would never have guessed this in a million years. Like I mentioned above, as an ARMY, a purple heart is what I use to spread the BTS love. Grapes are stuff we put in delicious wine.

On another note, y’all are using a baby bottle to refer to drugs?

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Emojis for Mushrooms

Emojis for Mushrooms

An emoji of a mushroom is shown.
Graphic: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

Alas, finally. We’ve come to the end of the emoji drug code. I’m ending with an emoji that’s very obvious because even I deserve to get one right at first glance. Don’t be fooled, though. Folks could also be sending this emoji to indicate that they’re going to pick mushrooms in the countryside. In Europe, it’s a thing.

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