When Dr. Laura Berman lost her 16-year-old son, Sammy, to a drug overdose after he connected with a drug dealer on social media, her world was turned upside.
“My beautiful boy is gone,” the relationship therapist wrote in an emotional Instagram post in early February 2021. “A drug dealer connected with him on Snapchat and gave him fentinyl (sic) laced Xanax and he overdosed in his room. ... My heart is completely shattered and I am not sure how to keep breathing.”
In the wake of Sammy's death, Berman has been an advocate for protecting kids online.
On Tuesday, she revealed a list of drug-related emoji — like a snowflake for cocaine, grapes for cough syrup, and a rocket, which means drug potency — teens may use to talk about drugs on the internet.
"Teens today talk about drugs in a language they’re fluent in — emojis," she captioned an Instagram carousel of commonly used icons and their meanings.
"Instead of writing out words and structuring sentences, teenagers and young adults are using emojis to express thoughts or emotions in conversations with their friends and online strangers. So, it’s important that parents become educated on the language our kids are speaking."
Immediately, the comment section was filled with parent reactions.
"Thank you — had no idea ... spoke with my 2 teen boys this morning — they knew what most of them meant. It’s so scary ... common language to them," wrote one mom.
Another wrote, "An (example) of how kids use this: 🔌💊🚗 This basically means 'Can someone hook me up with "drug of choice" Xanax, Percocet, etc. and deliver?'"
Deaths from drug overdoses have reached a record high during the pandemic; according to the National Safety Council, people are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a car crash. The American Medical Association reports that more than 35 states have seen "increases in opioid-related mortality" since the pandemic began.
“We watched him so closely," Berman wrote on Instagram after Sammy's death. "Straight A student. Getting ready for college. Experimentation gone bad. He got the drugs delivered to the house. Please watch your kids and WATCH SNAPCHAT especially. That’s how they get them.”
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