By Ivan Zhelev
Surfing on social media is one of the most common ways for teenagers to kill time. According to Statista, Facebook was most likely to be used by children aged 12 to 15 years old during 2019 in the UK. Snapchat and Instagram were close behind in second and third place.
These websites were once primarily used for keeping in touch with friends, sharing videos, or posting thirst traps. However, the apps have gone a long way since.
Seventy-three percent of teens say that Instagram is the best way for brands to reach them about new products and promotions, according to MN2S. A tactic well employed by drug dealers like Tom*: “A good ninety percent of my customers come from social media."
Volteface published that one in four adolescents came across a post advertising drugs on social media. The majority of listings seen were for cannabis, but cocaine, MDMA, Xanax, and nitrous oxide were also high up on the list.
Teenagers endeavoring in drugs is nothing new, but the issue is that purchasing A-level drugs has become more accessible.
“Ordering drugs is easier than getting a pizza, bro. It takes less than ten minutes", shares drug dealer, Mike*.
It not only takes less time than ordering food, but it’s unneeded to personally know a dealer or bother to dive into the deep web to purchase any illegal substances.
One may simply spend time on social media platforms and will be approached by a dealer or come across posts such as “everything available - get high and get low”, or “DM for flavour menu and all discreet shipping.”
“I manipulate people. I follow them and wait for them to see my posts and stories to know that I sell", says Mike*.
Due to the high competition in the drug market, dealers are forced to look for customers. Some years ago, there were fewer dealers, thus customers were looking for them. The change in the correlation between demand and supply forces dealers to be more creative and try to attract new customers in numerous ways.
Harry, a 52-year-old user, says: “Back in the days when I first started, you needed to roam the streets for maybe a few hours. [You] don’t now! Go on my FB or Instagram for two minutes, and I am sorted. Maybe another twenty minutes, and it’s delivered to me. It’s too simple now.”
Dealers try to reach the youth because experienced drug users already have their dealers, while adults opposing the use of drugs will rarely be pursued. The most vulnerable group is teenagers, and what better way to reach them than via social media?
Instagram is “working with the police to keep drugs content off [our] platform”, whilst Snapchat is “deeply committed to the safety of their customers and prohibits anyone from using Snapchat for selling or buying drugs.”
Tina*, 46 is a parent of a teenager who says: “I believe that they are trying to stop illegal activities happening on their platforms, but they must try harder.”
Even though it’s still illegal in the UK - weed and other drugs, are normalised and glamourized in high-definition pictures and videos.
“Recruitment opportunities available” read at the end of an Instagram video which promotes various drugs. Really? One may be wondering what the interview and trial shift will be...
Figures from the National Crime Agency suggest that more than four thousand children and young people were recruited by ‘county lines’ drug gangs in London alone in 2019.
Tom says: “I don’t care who is selling my stuff, I just want it moving.”
In London, 553 arrests were made in 2019. This included a 12-year-old on suspicion of dealing cocaine and five 13-year-olds suspected of selling heroin or crack cocaine. The youngest was seven years old suspected of selling pot.
NHS data has shown that Class A drug use among 11 to 15-year-olds is increasing, and there have been a number of high-profile cases of children fatally overdosing.
Alice, 13 says: “Smoking weed is nothing; everyone does it.”
The problem is that if she smokes weed at this age, it could be likely that she will take harder drugs in later life.
It is absurd to blame the increase of drug use only on social media. However, it is vital to acknowledge that stricter restrictions to stop dealers advertising their products have to be enforced.
(Some names have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee)