Amidst the hordes of carefully posed selfies and the countless stunning pictures of exotic destinations, Instagram has now become the home to numerous drug dealers who are using the social media platform, most common among youth, as their online shop.
Showcasing pictures of piles of cocaine, cups of “lean” or codeine syrup, and their most popular sell, bags of marijuana, dealers are proudly displaying their wares for youth to easily access. Found quite simply without the need of applying much effort to creativity or furtiveness, the drugs are hidden in plain sight to be found under clever hashtags usually using the drug of choice’s ever changing street name like “xannies” and “loud” or sometimes even shamelessly with the drug’s actual name. Once the search results have appeared, the access is right at a person’s fingertips to scroll through and buy drugs of various kinds.
In the article by Venture Beat, Instagram Has a Drug Problem, reporters searched just dozens of drug hashtags and unveiled a staggering quarter of a million images of drugs for sale or photos showing the use of illicit substances. Some of the hashtags produced over 100 pictures a day, they learned. And they were left with a feeling that they had only exposed the tip of an iceberg.
The process for acquiring drugs by way of Instagram is excruciatingly easy, especially for teenagers and young adults growing up in a cyber influenced world. After a search of the hashtags with the commonly used names for a desired drug, they can simply scroll through an abundance of choices to select a dealer from brazen pictures of substances. Instagram has become an experimenting or addicted youth’s playground of sorts.
Although Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, does not condone the sale or promotion of illicit drugs, it has yet to come up with a strong approach to solving the problem. The main plan seems to be blocking some of the more obvious hashtags like #XanaxForSale or #weed.
Law enforcement has captured some of the dealers who made the mistake of showing their faces, and they have arrested a number of buyers upon receipt of their orders. However, law enforcement faces a number of obstacles: jurisdiction is often not clear; small-time dealers fly under the radar; and limited resources.
As parents and loved ones, it is important to be aware of just how easily accessible drugs have become. There are numerous ways for people to buy drugs today, and social media is one of them.
What can be done? What should be done? More open honest conversations about drugs with young people is a great start. Adults must help them discern between fact and fiction about the perils of drug use. Research has shown that teens are less likely to try drugs or alcohol if they know their parents will disapprove, so parents do have a significant influence on their children.