Social Media – Drug Dealing in the 21st Century

Night street and a man in the office, using computer

What does 21st Century Drug Dealing Look Like?

One may think of a drug dealer as a shady person lurking in the shadows behind an abandoned building waiting for a call from his next client. Or perhaps a tough criminal living the thug life out in the seedy part of town. Maybe even a stooge of the drug cartels preying on new victims enjoying a night out at the club. The fact is that times are changing and this image may not be the case any longer.

There is a new face to narcotic distribution and unfortunately, it makes it easier than ever for anyone, even adolescents, to access dangerous and illicit substances. With the growth of social media and the accessibility of smartphones, a deadly new drug threat has emerged: the use of social media to market to teenagers, young adults and older citizens. This offers traffickers a fast and easily accessible avenue to expand their market and target new clientele. And of course, brings potentially dangerous substances to the fingertips of virtually anyone. Among the drugs on the social media market are deadly fake fentanyl and methamphetamine pills. Someone lured in may think they are buying the real thing but such pills can be virtually indistinguishable from authentic pills. Laboratory testing indicates that 7 out of every 10 pills seized by the DEA contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. With figures like this, it benefits loved ones to be aware of the danger and potential consequences of this new means of buying, selling and delivering such pills. Your child or loved one doesn’t have to be in the wrong crowd or in a gang to be at risk.

What to Look For

Man using smartphone

In this age, smartphones have transformed into a one-stop shop for the mass distribution of fake prescription pills and other dangerous drugs. You may be wondering how a website meant for keeping connected with friends and sharing stories, ideas and experiences could be so misused. Unfortunately, falling into this trap is all too easy. If you suspect that your child or loved one may be seeking drugs online it is important to know what to look for.

Drug traffickers first start by advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. You might not necessarily see these on your loved ones’ social media accounts as they appear in the form of 24-hour stories and in posts that are promptly posted and removed. However, if you notice an unusual use of emojis on their social media this may be a code used by dealers in order to avoid detection. It may be hard to believe that those cute pictures on the screen could secretly be a language used by criminals but it does happen. This is all the more reason to be well-informed on the subject.

Image Courtesy of

Another thing to look out for is messages with an unknown individual on encrypted communications apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram or suspicious comments on posts or direct messages.

What Can I Do?

With smartphones and internet access available in virtually any household and school in America, it may seem overwhelming to think of how you can combat this threat amongst your loved ones. Luckily there are some things that can be done to reduce the risk of someone you know falling prey to drug traffickers abusing social media:

  • Stay vigilant and aware of the drug trafficking threats on smartphone apps.
  • Report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.
  • Share information on the dangers of counterfeit pills to anyone you feel may be at risk. Social media drug trafficking impacts all age groups, but adolescents and young adults are particularly susceptible given their high rates of social media usage.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of drug addiction and act quickly to get help if such indicators are present in someone you know.

What Should I Do if a Loved One Is Addicted?

Addiction can be a nightmare for those going through it and just as much so for those by their side. The good news is that there is a solution. If you are seeking addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, Narconon is here to help. For over 50 years we have been helping those thought lost, get their lives back and free themselves from the chains of addiction. The time to act is now. To get in touch with one of our consultants simply call now or fill in a contact form here.


Suncoast Staff