Social Media Drug Dealers III: It’s Time for Parents to Fight Back

Kerry Nenn
Calendar icon Last Updated: 09/13/2023
family talking about online drug dealing
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“They make it hard to log out, but easy to find drugs.” – Katie Paul, Tech Transparency Project director.

Social media platforms have become the new pipeline for drug sales and the new frontier for social media drug dealers. The McAffee Institute reports that “buying drugs on these platforms is easier than buying a cup of coffee.”

And teens are falling victim to lethal online deals. Although Instagram and Snapchat are making improvements to police online drug dealing, parents must be aware of the incredible risks of buying drugs online.

Parents need to be their child’s first line of defense against the rise of social media drug dealers.

Two Clicks to Find a Social Media Drug Dealer

social media safety imageTech Transparency Project researchers have discovered that teens can connect with drug dealers on Instagram in just two clicks. And the software then recommends accounts to contact for more drugs. Social media apps are designed to show more of what the user is interested in.

So, if a curious teenager searches for something drug-related, their feed is likely to be flooded with other posts about drugs—and where to get them.

And once they’ve made contact with a social media drug dealer, it’s all too easy to have pills in-hand within a few hours.

The Banyan Treatment Center reports that buying drugs on social media couldn’t be easier:

“Once connected through social media and the buyer places their order, the dealer simply needs an address. They will then send the drugs through the mail or drop off the goods, and the buyer can send money through apps like PayPal. Because of this fast and easy delivery service, buying drugs on social media is a lot less intimidating than trying to find drug dealers on a sketchy street corner.”

“But my kid wouldn’t do that…”

Don’t be quick to make assumptions. Remember, teens are curious by nature. It’s a stage of life where kids are more prone to risk-taking.

If a teen gets bored, feels anxious or depressed, or simply wants to fit in, they might be tempted to buy a drug to experiment. Especially when they have such quick and easy access to the drug through social media.

“How dangerous is it really?”

The current drug culture among teenagers is very dangerous. The powerful synthetic drug, fentanyl, has changed the landscape. There is no such thing as “safe experimentation.”

Most of the pills sold on social media are fake, and they contain more than enough fentanyl to kill a person. In fact, according to the DEA, four out of 10 fake pills laced with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. And since the fakes look like legitimate prescription pills (OxyContin, Xanax, Adderall, etc.), it’s incredibly easy for teens to overdose.

Here’s what parents need to know about this deadly trend:

Fentanyl is a Favorite of Social Media Drug Dealers

  • Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. It is 50 times more powerful than heroin. Just a few grains of this drug is enough to kill a grown man.
  • Fentanyl is cheap to produce. Because it’s so affordable, fentanyl is found in most of the fake pills seized by authorities. Dealers press this powder into pills to mimic the effects of other drugs. And these fake pills often look identical to the real thing. Teens have no idea what they’re taking.
  • Narcan may not help. Naloxone (name brand Narcan) is a medication designed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. But since fentanyl is so powerful, even two doses of Narcan may not be enough to save your teen. Always call 911 if you suspect an overdose.

A Life-Saving Conversation About Social Media Drug Dealers

Parents talking about online drug dealingThere’s no time to waste. Whether you suspect your teen is buying drugs on social media or not, it’s important to have a conversation.

Shabbir Safdar, director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, says, “With dangers running so high, the best thing parents and educators can do is talk to children about the deadly new stakes of experimenting with drugs. The current generation has to learn that a pill that didn’t come from a pharmacy or a hospital can’t be trusted and might be a life-ending event.”

The most effective talk with your teen should focus on listening (not judging) and sharing facts.

Start by asking questions and listening to the answers:

  • Is fentanyl something that you’ve heard about on the news or at school?
  • What have you heard?
  • Do you think the risks are exaggerated?
  • Where do you think teens your age are likely to start using pills and why?

Then, give them the facts:

  • Fentanyl-laced drugs are common.
  • Counterfeit pills will look identical to legitimate pills.
  • One pill can kill. A dose of fentanyl the size of two grains of salt can cause a fatal overdose.
  • There are no “trusted sources.” The person selling the drugs might not realize the pills contain fentanyl.
  • Any pill or powder could contain a deadly dose of fentanyl.

Lastly, take practical steps to keep your teen safe:

  • Be on the same social media platforms as your teens. Know who their friends are.
  • Adjust phone settings to block content and apps you don’t want your teens to access.
  • Monitor your household mail for suspicious packages.
  • Familiarize yourself with common slang and hidden emoji meanings.

Learning the signs of drug use and social media drug dealing can help keep your child safe.

For information about treatment options for you or a loved one, call 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?) today.

Pen iconAuthor
Kerry Nenn
Kerry Nenn, BSW
Expert Author, Editor
Kerry is a full-time freelance writer and author whose work has received awards both locally and nationally. Based in the Chicago area, she holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology (BSW) from Evangel University. Kerry is a regular contributor to international newsletter publications, industry-leading consumer blogs, and Christian ministries.