CLEVELAND — In the last year, the illicit drug trade has moved further into the digital world, with traffickers increasingly utilizing social media and even coded emojis to avoid drawing the attention of law enforcement, while continuing to up the production of dangerous counterfeit pills, according to the DEA, who late last year launched the second phase of their national "One Pill Can Kill" campaign.
💊 for💰 - DEA says they've decoded dealers' emoji codes
"Drug trafficking operations are now harnessing the power of social media to advertise their drug," said Brian McNeal, DEA Public Information Officer Detroit Field Division.
The DEA uncovered the latest trick to help dealers to fly under the radar during its "One Pill Can Kill" campaign.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck effort," said McNeal.
Emojis are now a popular way for them to peddle pills on social media.
"A series of emojis can indicate a different drug is for sale," said McNeal.
The discovery gives us all another tool to help determine if someone we know is using.
"If you take those emojis and combine them with perhaps a behavior change or some performance issues, whether at work or school, that can be a definite indicator that something is up," said McNeal.
From September 29 through December 14, 2021, DEA agents nationwide have seized 8.4 million counterfeit pills with many of them containing a potentially deadly punch.
"Forty-two percent of those could contain a lethal dosage of fentanyl, so that is the number of lives that have been saved by pulling these pills off the street and getting them properly disposed of," said McNeal.
As they continue to close in on drug trafficking operations, DEA agents are working to raise awareness about using medications not prescribed by a doctor.
"These pills, you can't discern the difference with the naked eye. We have to take these pills and send them to a laboratory to get them analyzed to see what they're made of," said McNeal.
DEA agents tell News 5 that this increase in counterfeit pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine can be almost exclusively traced back to Mexico, as drug trafficking organizations continue to exploit the opioid epidemic and prescription drug misuse problem.