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Updated: December 16, 2022

Justice Dept, DEA Say Social Media Companies Need to Help Fight Fentanyl

Drug dealing has gone high-tech, especially during the pandemic. It's easy for people to set up an account on apps that give privacy. People buy illicit drugs from dealers daily using apps like Snap Chat, Facebook Chat, and Signal. Often, they pay through an online app like Cash App or Paypal. Then the drug dealer or a cohort drops it off at the person's mailbox, usually at night. Usually, the young people buying the drugs don't know it contains fentanyl. And because they tend to be non-opioid users, fentanyl often produces a deadly overdose.

Fentanyl and The Online Illicit Drug Market

While using new technology to sell drugs is nothing new, the relative anonymity causes complications. Some apps that are used require a process to unveil users. People who sell the drugs will move around, change their handles, or quit selling entirely after an overdose.

Recently, a rash of overdoses in California was attributed to counterfeit Adderall pills laced with fentanyl. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry has experienced a shortage, which may have caused people who use it recreationally to seek it out online.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco oversees the DEA. She says fentanyl is the agency's top priority. "No longer are we talking about meeting on the street and making that connection," Monaco said on CBS News. "The dealer is in your kid's pocket along with the phone."

Monaco explained that many of the deaths she sees "are unsuspecting users thinking they're getting one thing and they're getting something else in the form of fentanyl."

"So those really that's not actually an overdose," she said. "That's a poisoning."

Monaco also said the Justice Department is pushing social media to use the tools they have to help really make a difference against drug dealing on their platforms. For example, social media companies use advanced user data to predict their users' buying patterns and behavior. So it would make sense that they can develop something to help make their platforms less user-friendly to drug dealers. Monaco calls it "a national security issue, "a public safety issue," and "a public health issue."

So far, however, social media companies have resisted the idea that they can do more than they are already doing about the issue.

Education On Fentanyl Dangers Sorely Needed

Young people who end up poisoned by fentanyl often don't know that they're taking it. New campaigns, such as a recent one launched in Los Angeles, seek to let people know the dangers of opioid tampering. Over 80% of street drugs now have traces of opioids in them.

Narcan/naloxone, an opioid-reversal drug, may soon be offered in public schools for young people who overdose. Drug users also need to be supplied with it, but there is a waiting list for the free supply in California right now. Some harm-reduction programs also offer fentanyl test strips, which can help people who use drugs test for the presence of fentanyl in their own supply.

Help For Addiction Is Also Key

Many people who use opioids meet the criteria for opioid use disorder. This is a disorder of the brain, but the great news is that there's help available. Medication-Assisted Treatment can help carve a path to recovery. Reaching out for help is the first step. Give us a call at 619-363-4767.


If you or a loved one is looking for an effective drug rehab in San Diego, call 619-363-4767. One of our caring members is ready to answer all of your questions.

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