In an effort to raise awareness about the vast number of counterfeit pills — often containing deadly doses of fentanyl — that are flooding the illicit drug market, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has released a guide to emojis used by people looking to buy and sell drugs on social media.
The DEA hopes publicizing the emojis used on platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Messenger will help parents and caregivers identify potential drug buys.
The collection of emojis is not an exhaustive list. But it includes icons that are seen regularly in social media drug trade.
Nationally, the DEA seized more than 20 million fake pills last year. About 40% of those contained potentially deadly doses of fentanyl, which is responsible for most overdose deaths.
"If you don't have a prescription ... and you don't purchase these pills from a licensed pharmacy, you're playing Russian roulette," said Kent Kleinschmidt, acting special agent in charge of the DEA's Detroit division.
In Michigan, the DEA seized 218 pounds of illicit fentanyl in powder and pills last year, an incredible increase compared with the 68 pounds seized in 2020, the DEA said.
Preliminary figures from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 100,000 people — a record number — died from drug overdoses during the 12 months that ended in April 2021.
In July 2020, two brothersfrom Rochester Hills, ages 18 and 20, and a 17-year-old Rochester Hills girl died in an Auburn Hills hotel room after consuming pills containing fentanyl. A fourth person in the room survived an overdose and is in prison for providing the deadly pills.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: DEA: Here's how to crack the code for social media drug deals