Search icon


21st Dec 2022

UK police reveal ‘secret world of emojis’ – including eyes for drug dealers and fish for using cocaine

Steve Hopkins

How many of these can you guess?

Police in the UK published a guide to the ‘secret world of emojis’ and what they might really mean when used by kids – including ‘eyes’ for being a drug dealer and a fish for using cocaine.

The ‘secret world of emojis’ shows the darker side of what the colourful symbols are used for – often a code for drugs and sex.

The list of examples include using a strawberry, dog, cherries, cake, ice cream or leaves to indicate cannabis. An aubergine or a peach might represent sex and an alien or a mask might mean MDMA.

A blowfish, petrol pump or a snowflake can represent cocaine use, while a fist or a rocket might mean how powerful the substances are.

Emojis of a pair of eyes or a power cable might mean someone is a drug dealer – while a horse can mean ketamine and a balloon ‘NOS’.

Surrey Police put out the guide as part of a campaign to make parents more “emoji aware”.

Detective chief inspector Kate Hyder said: “We really want parents and guardians to feel confident to have a conversation with their children about this, if and when they need to”.

Emojis – small icons which convey specific emotions – have become a popular way to communicate across all ages. But Surrey Police say there is a “secret world of emojis” – with “more concerning meanings”.

The force said it had spent the last two weeks campaigning to raise awareness, as “some young people may use [emojis] to reference drugs and sexual behaviour”.

Hyder added: “Our focus on this doesn’t stop with the end of this initial campaign.

“We’re also aware that emojis and their alternative meanings are something that will constantly change, and so our work and research into this will continue.”

And a force statement said: “This isn’t a campaign that starts and finishes within this two-week window. “Instead, this is about encouraging parents and guardians to have conversations with their children at a time that works for everyone involved. “What is vital in these discussions is trust.

“We’re very aware that checking phones could break down this trust between a parent and their child, and therefore we are not suggesting parents do this.

“Instead, we want people to be aware of what these emojis mean, in case they do happen to see them.”

Police added that, although the emojis can have serious meanings, use on their own does not necessarily mean a child is involved in drugs. Instead, this may be seen as part of a bigger picture of a change in their behaviour, such as a change in mood.

LISTEN: You Must Be Jokin’ with Aideen McQueen – Faith healers, Coolock craic and Gigging as Gaeilge