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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lyons

Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center Warns of Emojis Symbolizing Potential Drug Activity

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – The Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC) released a public safety bulletin today alerting parents that emojis are being used by youth on social media and electronic communications to market, sell, and buy illegal drugs.

Emojis used in drug communications commonly refer to the physical, psychological, or physiological characteristics of the drugs. 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.

“The use of emojis in this manner is a nationwide trend, and our analysts are seeing it here in Ohio as they analyze electronic devices seized in ongoing drug investigations,” said Cynthia Peterman, ONIC Executive Director. “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.”

Emojis can refer to specific types of drugs such as a peeled banana for oxycodone/Percocet, a step ladder for alprazolam/Xanax, a snail for fentanyl, or a 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. 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.

To report a drug tip to ONIC, please call 1-833-OHIO-NIC (644-6642).

Governor DeWine signed an executive order in July 2019 creating ONIC, a specialized criminal intelligence unit to assist local law enforcement in conducting intelligence-driven drug trafficking investigations. Operated as part of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, ONIC has locations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. ONIC’s criminal intelligence analysts and computer forensic specialists provide investigative, analytical, and digital forensic support to local law enforcement agencies and drug task forces throughout Ohio.


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