Teens have easier access to drugs as illegal trade booms on social media

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Last winter, Megan Macintosh discovered her 18-year-old son Chase unconscious after she says he experimented with capsules. He died simply over a month later, probably from a tablet laced with fentanyl from an unknown supply. 

Macintosh turned to his social media for solutions. Looking by way of her son’s Snapchat, she mentioned she noticed baggage of capsules and mushrooms. “I felt really helpless like there’s really nothing I can do when I saw how prevalent it was, how many people were in his feed,” she mentioned. 

The drug trade is booming on social media, in accordance to Kathleen Miles, who works for the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime. “I think social media can be great, but it also has a really dark side of it,” Miles mentioned. 

With fentanyl in excessive circulation, the dangers are sometimes lethal. The U.S. recorded greater than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in a 12-month interval for the primary time, in accordance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the best variety of drug overdose deaths ever recorded in a year. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration has warned of the alarming enhance within the availability and lethality of pretend prescription capsules containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. 

In her expertise, Miles mentioned youngsters on social media are two levels of separation away from a drug seller. 

CBS News requested Miles to create two faux profiles throughout Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, claiming they had been 18, however publicly figuring out as highschool college students.

One was actively trying to find drugs and located an obvious seller inside 48 hours. 

The second account used completely different hashtags like #despair, #unhappy and #anxiousness. While all three social media platforms supplied some psychological well being resources, posts about marijuana and cigarettes additionally appeared on Instagram. 

“By the third day, on Instagram,” Miles mentioned, “we were fully immersed into drug culture.” For her, this culminated in an image of somebody showing to snort cocaine. Miles added that the tech firms bear accountability. “Since they aren’t liable, they’re not creating the guardrails needed to keep our kids safe.” 

Snapchat advised CBS News it’s “determined to do their part to eradicate drug sales.” Instagram mentioned it can “continue making improvements” to hold younger individuals protected. According to the newest quarterly Transparency Report, TikTok has eliminated practically 96% of drug-related movies inside 24 hours. All three firms mentioned they’re utilizing know-how to proactively take away this content material. 

Macintosh has a message for different mother and father following her son’s demise: “It was my kid. It can be your kid,” she mentioned. Macintosh believes it is all in regards to the strategy. “Let’s have an honest conversation about why, how and what we need to do as a family to keep you safe and happy.’”


The full statements from Snapchat and Meta are under: 

“The tragic drug epidemic requires urgent action and we are determined to do our part to eradicate drug sales on Snapchat. We have raised awareness of the dangers of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl directly in our app to inform young people of the deadly consequences. We use cutting edge technology including machine learning tools to proactively detect and remove drug-related content on Snapchat. We also use third-party detection tools to scan other platforms where drug dealers may be trying to contact Snapchatters. We work with law enforcement and partner with parent groups, safety organizations, and experts who inform all of these practices, and we constantly evaluate where we can keep strengthening our work to combat this illegal activity.” – Snapchat spokesperson

“We don’t allow the sale of illicit drugs on Instagram. As a result of the technology we’ve developed to find and remove this content proactively, we now remove over 96% of it before people report it. We will continue making improvements to keep people safe on Instagram, particularly the youngest members of our community. ” – Meta spokesperson 

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