Some studies have shown that social media can trigger neurological responses that are similar to those provoked by drugs. But for some young people without personal connections to a real-life drug dealer, social media apps like Instagram, Tinder and others are being used these days to actually get an illicit fix.
Young users of social media are finding a wide array of drugs on the platforms, from prescription medication to research chemicals and recreational drugs, according to the Guardian. On Tinder, users simply swipe right (meaning “like”) when they come across profiles offering the drugs they want. On Instagram, they search through hashtags with preset phrases or the names of the drugs themselves.
For example: Planning a rave later? Maybe try searching for “#MDMA.”
The buyers then either meet up with the seller in person or send money digitally and have the goods sent to them in the mail. Bitcoin and prepaid gift cards have been used alongside less secure methods like PayPal and unattributed bank transfers.
Of course, finding a dealer online doesn’t make it legal, and often the transactions breach the community guidelines set forth by the social media platform itself. Facebook-owned Instagram says drug transactions violate its rules and urges users who come across drug dealers to report them. Kik, an anonymous mobile chat app, also said it doesn’t “tolerate any illegal activity” and cooperates with law enforcement when issues arise. Even so, law enforcement has had a difficult time stopping online illicit drug dealing, at least in Britain, the Guardian reports.
“The digital world has transformed the availability and threat of harmful drugs, and we must adapt to these challenges,” a spokesman for the U.K. National Police Chiefs’ Council said. “Forces are committed to reducing the harm caused by drugs but cannot do this alone; prevention, education and health services all have a crucial role.”
Adolescents are most likely — by wide margins — to use marijuana over other illicit drugs, including prescription pain killers, hallucinogens and ecstasy, according to DrugAbuse.com. But it’s the other drugs that can be lethal. Drug overdoses kill more teenagers than traffic accidents and guns, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.