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Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center issues alert for parents on how emojis are being used in connection with drug activity

'Although use of these emojis is most often harmless, it’s important that parents keep this alert in mind. ...'

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC) issued a public safety bulletin Thursday to alert parents “that emojis are being used by youth on social media and electronic communication to market, sell and buy illegal drugs.”

ONIC Executive Director Cynthia Peterman says the use of emojis in this manner is a nationwide trend with activity being seen here in Ohio as they analyze electronic devices seized in ongoing drug investigations.

“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,” Peterman said in a press release.

So how are the emojis being used?

“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,” ONIC officials said while providing the following list:

  • Peeled banana for oxycodone / Percocet
  • Step ladder for alprazolam / Xanax
  • Snail for fentanyl
  • 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,” officials added. “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.”

Have a drug tip? The ONIC asks you to call 1-833-OHIO-NIC (644-6642).

The ONIC was established in July 2019 by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine as a specialized criminal intelligence unit to assist local law enforcement in conducting intelligence-driven drug trafficking investigations.

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Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated story on Jan. 25, 2023.

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