How Snapchat Became The Most Dangerous Opioid Marketplace

Most people think of a drug deal occurring in a shady parking lot, some back alley, or a warehouse full of people with guns like we see on TV. But in the age of the internet, most narcotics dealing, especially with opioids, has moved to the internet and text conversations. One app specifically is being forced to step up following a devastating string of fentanyl overdoses following purchases made via Snapchat. The parent company of Snapchat, simply called Snap, has put forward some measures to prevent this from happening, but in an ever-evolving tech world, it is likely that dealers will simply find a way around these measures. To fully understand this deadly phenomenon, it is important to look back and see exactly how Snapchat became the most dangerous opioid marketplace.


How Drug Dealers Use Snapchat As The New Opioid Marketplace

Snapchat deals in pictures. Early on it faced criticism for how anonymous and fast-paced it was. Messages sent in pictures would disappear in 10 seconds or less. Snapchat has since evolved, making snaps reviewable but also notifying a user if someone screenshots or screen-records a message, and adding stories. These stories exist for only 24 hours, and they are often the place where dealers can advertise opioids. Snapchat also works algorithmically like most social media apps, if you consume any amount of content related to drugs, the algorithm will likely feed you more content related to drugs. In her devastating article, “When one pill kills,” NBC tech investigator Olivia Solman surmises that the relatively quick turnover of Snapchat content, as well as the ease of deleting and making a new account after being banned, makes it so that dealers can effectively push opioids on Snapchat without being detected. But these aren’t public posts. Snapchat is a friend-based community, meaning for the most part you only see snaps from people that you add to your network. While this is better than publicly available opioid content, like on other social media apps such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, Snapchat’s anonymity and quickly disappearing messages make it easy for dealers to reach out to contacts that may have mutual friends with the users to whom they currently sell.


Deadly Tales Expose The Flaw In Snapchat

One thing that Solman points out in the NBC article is that these Snapchat-related overdoses are being misclassified. In each of the 8 cases she investigates, the teens and young adults, one as young as 13, are not the victims of accidental overdoses. In fact, they have been lied to by a dealer recommended through a friend or acquaintance on Snapchat and poisoned by fentanyl. In every case that Solmon looks at, and many other similar cases like them, these young people who do not have the education to know better, reach out on Snapchat looking for prescription opioids. In most cases, it was Percocet or Oxycodone to help with an injury or lingering pain. In some cases, the fake pills these teens receive contain pure fentanyl and have not even been mixed with other substances before being pressed into a pill that appears to be oxycodone. This dosage of pure fentanyl is deadly. The heartbreaking stories of parents who have suffered losses are being heard by Snapchat, but is it enough to save lives?


Can Snapchat Stop Itself From Becoming Overrun With Opioids?

Snapchat recently announced that it will be expanding safety measures and has developed an artificial intelligence program that is working to identify drug-related content and ban users. However, parents of children who have died from accidental fentanyl overdose consistently report that Snapchat has taken excessive time in releasing account records, and many report that the dealers they suspect are the reason their children are dead are still on the app. Snapchat’s algorithm will never be enough to outsmart human intelligence, so it is incredibly important that parents educate their children on the dangers of fentanyl, how fentanyl is being used in fake prescription pills, and even go so far as to supply fentanyl test strips just in case. This education would save lives, as many teens who are experimenting with substances are only being fed out-of-date information in-school programs, if they are receiving any education at all.



Fritz Clinic of Alabama has been leading the charge against opioids for over 35 years. If you are struggling with opioid addiction and are looking for proven treatment, please contact Fritz Clinic of Alabama. Fritz has decades of expertise in helping people heal from opioid addiction. Call or contact us by filling out our online contact form to begin your healing today. No one should have to deal with opioid dependence on their own. At Fritz Clinic, we believe in you. Don’t wait any longer, let us help you overcome your dependence for good!