Now when Snapchat users search for “fenta,” “xanax,” or other drug parlance, the results are blocked. They’re redirected to an in-app video channel with content from nonprofits and the CDC that discusses “fentapills” — the dangers of purported OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and Adderall.
According to Facebook’s latest Community Standards Report, it took action on four million drug-related interactions globally in the fourth quarter of 2021. Instagram took action on 1.2 million, numbers that represent at both user alerts and preventive detection technology.
On Instagram, a recent search for Percocet triggered an automatic warning and an offer to help. But it also yielded plenty of results, including an account that posted photos of the pills and contact information, along with phone numbers on encrypted messaging apps Wickr and WhatsApp.
And when companies remove resellers from their platforms, many sellers simply move on.
“We detect about 10,000 new drug-related accounts per month,” said Dr Mackey, whose software company detects illicit drug trafficking online for private and public organizations.
Most drug seekers won’t simply search for a drug by name, he said. They can use a hashtag with a celebrity associated with it. Enterprising marketers troll customer reviews, inserting themselves into online exchanges between pain relief seekers.
During the pandemic, drug use has increased as the mental health of young adults and adolescents has deteriorated, studies show. Young people tend to avoid heroin, not only because of its addictive properties, but also because of a nervousness about needles, say adolescent behavior experts. The pills, with the false imprimatur of the medical authority, seem safer. Plus, in their generation, prescription drugs — for anxiety, depression, and focus — became normalized.