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Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, emoji drug buys are the latest trends in deadly drug use, officials say

emojis of various kinds shown on a computer screen projection
Jolene Almendarez
Emojis are linked to drug buys, officials say, some of which could turn deadly.

Last week, two Ohio State University students died of a possible drug overdoseand a third was hospitalized. Officials say a powdery white substance was found in their shared apartment, and the university warned students of possible counterfeit Adderall pills laced with fentanyl in circulation.

Joe Reder, resident agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration office in Cincinnati, says there's been an increase in fentanyl laced pills in this area, too.

"The big thing that we've seen in the last year is the uptick in the trend of illicit pills coming. We're seeing it in two fashions: We're seeing pills coming straight across the border that are fake pills," he said. "One of the other trends that we've seen is the use of emojis to order the pills and to order illegal drugs."

Examples of the latter include diamonds for cocaine or meth, a chocolate bar for Xanax, and a football for Oxycodone.

Nationwide last year, the DEA seized 15 thousand pounds of fentanyl, which is about 440 million lethal doses of the drug, Reder said.

Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco says the main thing people should know is taking any prescription pills that aren't prescribed to you is illegal for a reason.

"But especially if you're going to take opioids, if they're not prescribed to you they can be deadly. If you're buying stuff off the streets, if you're buying stuff off an app, if you're buying stuff from Snapchat… it literally is one and done," she said.

She's even seen people at the morgue who've died from laced pills the first time they ever used them. It's something she says parents and drug users should be aware of.

Tuesday, May 10, was the first ever national Fentanyl Awareness Day. More than 107,000 people died of a drug overdose last year.

In Hamilton County, strips for testing if drugs are laced with fentanyl are available by mail by texting "FTS" to 22999.

Test strips are also available at the county's needle exchange program.

Statewide, fentanyl test strips can be ordered at

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.