BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Parents often complain their kids seem to be talking and typing in a whole different language.

But in one case, this idea carries a more sinister undertone — as some kids are stated to be using text emojis to buy and sell drugs in a method that many parents don’t notice.

These emojis may look like harmless text, but when arranged in specific orders, the FDA states that they can correlate to terms regarding drug use and distribution — a combination of a cookie, snowman, and package, for example, apparently represents saying that a large package of cocaine has arrived.

The drug market is open every day for buyers on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and even X are all being used to distribute drugs through this code — and in turn, the Drug Enforcement Administration says that drug dealers have been using the technology to lure addicts seeking illegal drugs.

“Social media, especially, is being used all across the country,” said the DEA’s Public Information Officer Emily Murray. “North Dakota and Bismarck are no different than anywhere else across the nation at this point. Social media apps are being used to market, buy, and sell drugs — and the cartels are using this to their advantage.

DEA agents also state that using codes to buy and sell drugs isn’t new — but the ability to order drugs with a text and have them dropped off immediately makes both acquiring and delivering drugs even more anonymous than ever before.

“Gone are the days when you had to walk to your shady street corner to find your local drug dealer anymore,” stated Murray. “It’s as easy as getting on your smartphone, getting on an app, and finding somebody — wherever they’re located in the country — to buy drugs from. You don’t have to buy from somebody directly in Bismarck anymore now…you can purchase drugs from California, Miami, wherever it may be and have it delivered straight to your doorstep.”

The mystery behind these shipments is that even if you order one, you often have no idea who is actually delivering the drugs or dropping them off, adding to the convenience for both parties.

“When you look at 2020,” Murray stated, “the year the pandemic hit a lot of us turned more and more to our smartphones. We’re able to order our groceries online. Pretty much anything you could possibly need to get by in life anymore, you can purchase it online, and the cartels really took advantage of that.”

The DEA says that the CJNG (‘new generation’) and the Sinaloa are two of the major drug Cartels using social media as a network for their drugs, and indeed those who are dominating the US wholesale drug market. Agents say criminals can use social media to sell fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine.

While they have a clear picture of the gangs behind the operation, though, there is no simple age or face for their buyers — and even though some are just looking for a cheaper alternative to prescription pills, they could still be in danger of taking a drug laced with fentanyl. In addition, the DEA notes that they focus on both the buyer and seller during their investigation.

“All of our investigations are multi-prompt,” explained Murray. “The main objective of any investigation is to work that case back as high as you can to find the source of supply, who provided the source of supply, who provided the source of supply, and eventually working that case all the way back to the Cartels.”