The text messages on a child's phone look innocent enough. "I want a Ben and Jerry's." "Is Lori in town?" "I'm fixing a BLT." "I want a Bean Burrito." Most parents would assume their teenager is going for an ice cream, looking for their friend Lori, making a bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich, but decides on a bean burrito instead. Unfortunately, their assumptions are wrong. The text messages actually mean: "I want ice or crystal meth." "Is there any Lorcet?" "I'm fixing a blunt." "I want Ecstasy."
A 2008 study by CTIA-The Wireless Association showed four out of five teens carried a wireless device and 47 percent of them reported that they can text with their eyes closed. According to Robert W. Mooney, M.D., addiction psychiatrist for Willingway Hospital, it is imperative for parents to have their eyes wide open to code names for illicit drugs as part of their diligence in helping to prevent drug abuse among today's youth.
"Even before electronic messaging, it was difficult for parents to ask specifically about their child's behavior," said Dr. Mooney. "Parents have always been the last to know. But now parents are behind the eight ball because they tend to be fairly naive about electronic devices and technology which adds to the difficulty in addressing this. Parents don't need to be cyber spies or cyber police, but need to continue to be highly involved in their children's lives in an electronic age."
Other translations for common drug-related teen text talk:
- "Has anyone seen tina?" – Another code for crystal meth.
- "What you know 'bout them tree?" – Code for pot, or marijuana.
- "U seen that white girl?" – Code for cocaine.
- "U seen elvis and blue suede shoes?" – Code for blue lorcets, or prescription pain killers.
- "Elvis has left the building." - The drug dealer is gone.
- "Are you coming to pick up the girls or the boys?" – A drug dealer asking if teen wants cocaine or heroin, respectively.
- "The eagle has landed." – Code for drugs are ready for pick-up.
Communities around the country are increasingly trying to become part of the solution to the ongoing drug abuse problem among today's youth. As an example, Willingway Hospital is partnering with the Statesboro Police Department to sponsor a community forum for interested parents, educators, youth pastors and counselors as part of September's National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month 2010. Treatment professionals and representatives from the Statesboro Police Department will educate the community about how teens use mobile messaging to communicate about drugs, the signs of alcohol and drug use in young adults, and trends of drug use and abuse in city.
"Mothers and fathers need to be very aware of what's going on with their child's computer," said Scott Brunson, Captain of the Criminal Investigative Division of the Statesboro Police Department. "In addition to shortcut language and slang terms, the Internet provides ample information on how to make crack, how to manufacture methamphetamines, and how to beat a drug test."
Often though, drugs that are being misused come right from the unknowing parents. "A lot of drugs that are in the home medicine cabinet have a value in cyber space. Social networking provides an avenue to find drugs a lot easier. A child can instantly send out a Facebook message to hundreds of friends to check out other parents' medicine cabinets. This creates a significantly efficient market for pharmaceuticals, as families' medicine cabinets now become part of the drug scene," added Dr. Mooney.
Dr. Mooney advises parents to routinely clean out their medicine cabinet to discard unused drugs and to create an electronic "cone of silence" where TVs, cell phones, laptops and Blackberries are turned off so meaningful face-to-face conversations can take place with children about what is expected of them.
"Parents should feel empowered to 'disempower' the electronics, ultimately helping their children face down the temptations of drug abuse," added Dr. Mooney.