Rise in teens buying illegal drugs on social media
CHILDREN as young as 13 are using social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat to buy illegal drugs, experts claimed yesterday.
The worrying trend has developed in the past 18 months, according to youth workers who say dealers use hashtags and emojis to advertise what they stock.
And buying through the sites mean young people are more likely to buy the substances from strangers, a more dangerous way of obtaining drugs.
Nick Hickmott, of the charity Young Addaction, said: ‘In the last 18 months we have gone from this way of getting drugs not being mentioned at all among the young people we work with to now nearly every young person talking about it. It is disturbing.’
He claimed that the picture sharing apps Instagram and Snapchat tended to be the platforms most used for dealing. Dealers reportedly share images of the drugs, before providing alternative contact details for potential purchases.
While cannabis is currently the most prevalent drug sold via social media, dealers are also using the sites to sell ecstasy.
Xanax, a drug used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks, has also been touted via the apps. Most deals then take place on other platforms, such as the encrypted messenyoung ger app Wickr. Mr Hickmott said his organisation, the youth branch of Addaction, Britain’s largest drug and alcohol charity, worked with youngsters aged ten to 24. But many of those it helped were aged 13 to 17.
‘They are the ones talking about this and the reason we are seeing this rise is because of the growth of social media,’ he told The Guardian.
Mr Hickmott said his biggest concern was for teenagers buying from strangers.
‘Essentially, if a dealer knows you, they are far less likely to want to see you ripped off or end up in hospital,’ he said.
Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in mental health at York University, said: ‘I would be in favour of social media networks taking the problem more seriously.’
Earlier this year, one of the country’s largest drug gangs told a BBC documentary that 75 per cent of their takings now come through social media transactions, using ‘digitalsavvy’ school pupils. Film-maker Stacey Dooley confronted the dealers, highlighting the ease with which illegal transactions can be arranged.
Statistics suggest Snapchat has around 178million daily active users and is increasingly popular with teenagers.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it encouraged people to report any content that could violate its guidelines. A spokesman told The Guardian:
‘Danger of buying from strangers’
‘The Instagram community must follow the law and the sale of illegal or prescription drugs, even if legal in a specific region, is not allowed.
‘We encourage anyone who comes across content like this to report it via our in- built reporting tools. Our global review team checks these reports 24/7, and as soon as we are made aware of violating content we work quickly to remove it.’ Snapchat said it took its responsibility to create a safe and secure experience seriously. It had ‘an active trust and safety team’ that responded to reports and concerns within 24 hours.
A spokesman added: ‘There is no place for selling drugs on Snapchat. We encourage anyone who sees something like this anywhere to always report it.’