The Fentanyl-Laced Pills Teens Are Buying on Snapchat
Is Your Child Buying Drugs on Social Media?
A surge of youth drug overdose deaths driven by fake or counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl is gripping the country. Teens are using social media platforms, including Snapchat and Instagram, to buy drugs that later turn out to be laced with deadly fentanyl.
In 2020, there were over 93,000 drug overdose deaths which is a 32 percent increase from the previous year. While this statistic alone is concerning, teen overdose death rates are even more alarming; the under 24 age group saw the most significant single-year rise in drug overdose deaths at 50 percent.
The main driving force behind the sudden surge in overdose deaths in teens is the massive increase in counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl combined with the ever-increasing ease for teens to purchase illicit drugs through social media. Teens can buy pills such as Xanax or Percocet from their room and have them delivered right to their house in some cases.
The underlying problem causing the dangerous spike in drug deaths among the youth is that there have never been more fake pills on the street which are made to look identical to known brands of prescription drugs but are actually made with fentanyl – an opioid up to 100 times more potent than heroin.
The youth buy fentanyl-laced pills without even knowing it, leading to accidental overdose deaths. Just one fake pill can lead to death and according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that concluded that two in every five fake pills contain a life-threatening amount of fentanyl. One pill can be the last.
The problem of teens overdosing on fake pills laced with fentanyl is happening at all socioeconomic levels. First responders share stories of reporting to a scene where a homeless teen died from a drug overdose and then responded to another overdose at a $12 million home—both affected by the same fake pills.
It is more important than ever to educate teens and the youth on the dangers of buying illicit drugs from people on Snapchat, Instagram, Craigslist, and other social media platforms. Buying illicit drugs online used to be kept in the dark web domain but is now being openly sold on social media. Today, every 12 hours, a teen in the U.S. dies due to taking fentanyl-laced pills and experts and law enforcement agree that it’s never been easier for the youth to buy illicit drugs – as easy as purchasing a pizza.
It’s all too easy to think, “my kids don’t do that.” Still, the truth is that experimentation combined with peer pressure and the overwhelming availability of fake pills is a recipe for disaster for those uninformed of the dangers involved. Many parents who lost their child to illicit drug overdose had no idea that it was something they were trying. With just one pill being able to kill, prevention through education is the only actionable response.
Snapchat is attempting to educate its users on the dangers of illicit drugs, but their algorithms will still flood you with drug-related users the moment you follow a single drug dealer. As a parent, you will want to proactively find out if your child is buying drugs from Snap or other social media platforms or if they have been considering it because a friend has tried.
To start, it’s essential to know where a lot of these illicit drugs are being sold. The sites that may be a platform for drug dealers to reach your child include:
If your child is on these sites on their phone, they will likely have an app installed from each platform. You should become acquainted with these sites and their apps so you can navigate their apps and monitor your child’s activity.
What’s important to look for is who they are following and following them. When a child first finds a dealer, the dealer, and other dealers, they will likely follow your child’s profile back and then bombard them with adverts for drugs. Of course, there are classic signs of drug use to be aware of, but the current situation with fake pills may not give you any warning before a fatal overdose, so being on top of their social media activity is essential.
Fentanyl Overdose: The Real Danger of Buying Drugs on Social Media
Fentanyl is a drug that has been in the news for years as a leading cause of drug overdose deaths. It has escalated to a situation where any pill you buy illegally online may be laced with fentanyl—often enough to kill three adults.
Since data from the DEA showed that as many as two in five pills (40 percent) could have a lethal amount of fentanyl, every illicit medicine bought through social media may be a deadly one. The real problem for teens is that they are led to believe that what they are buying isn’t fentanyl since the fake pills are made to look like Adderall, Oxycodone, Xanax, Percocet, and other well-known prescription medications.
It is impossible to tell just by looking at a pill if it has fentanyl or not, and since such a large number of fake pills can be deadly, every illicit pill that can be bought through social media should be treated as life-threatening. Teens need to understand this fact, and it’s essentially like putting their life on the line.
Drug-Related Emojis Every Parent Should Be Aware Of
With social media being so prevalent in the youth’s lives, emojis have become a staple slang used for everything, including drugs. Some common drug-related emojis that are used on Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms include the following:
- 💊 – Can indicate prescription drugs or any illicit drug
- 🔌 – Often used to ask for a “hookup” or someone looking for drugs
- 🚀, ⛽ – Getting high or being very intoxicated (gassed)
- 🥧 – Large quantity of drugs
- 🚬, 💨 – Can mean smoking or vaping marijuana or other drugs
- 🐎, 🎯, 💉, 🐉 – Heroin
- 🔑, ⛄, 🎱, ❄️, 🥥, 🤧 – Cocaine
- ❄, 💎, 🏔 – Crystal meth
These are just some standard emojis used to refer to drugs or acquire drugs. A plug is one of the most significant clues that your child may be looking for a drug dealer, along with the pill emoji showing that they are looking for pill-type drugs such as Xanax or Adderall. A dealer’s profile will often be an assortment of the above emojis or similar-looking ones to indicate the types of drugs they have on offer.
How to Talk to Your Kids About the Dangers of Fentanyl
Since educating your teen is the best way to prevent them from experimenting with dangerous fentanyl-laced fake pills and because almost every teen is on social media where it’s easier than ever to buy illicit drugs, you should talk to your kids about the ongoing dangers of fentanyl-laced drugs.
First, it’s essential to understand that the drug networks on social media are essentially friends selling to friends and the friends of friends. In essence, it’s people that your child trusts and not total strangers.
Creating a safe space to talk about drugs at home is a good start. You will want to inform them of the real dangers and how even the dealer doesn’t know what’s inside of their drugs, but you will also want to be open to learning from your kids about the drug culture they are immersed in. The discussions should not just be limited to drugs either; it’s more an open communication about many topics, including their music taste, the games they enjoy, and more.
You will want to create an atmosphere where you are in it with them instead of an outsider imposing on them. You will want to be an ally and not an obstacle. Your emotions may be high, but if you let them get the better of you and force your opinion, then your child may close off.
Your child may not know that 40 percent of pills sold through Snapchat and other sites have fatal amounts of fentanyl. Their false sense of trust buying from someone they perceive as a friend may blind them to the fact that the dealer has no clue what’s in their drugs. Just because a friend has bought pills without issue doesn’t mean that the next batch won’t be fatal.
Muse Treatment Center is a source of drug and addiction information. Our experts are ready to help you educate your child on the dangers of buying drugs from social media sites and overcome mental health disorders that may contribute to substance abuse. Call us at (800) 426-1818 today to learn how our addiction treatment programs can help teens overcome their drug addiction.