Social Media – The Perfect Platform for Buying and Selling Drugs
Teens and social media go hand-in-hand. If you have an adolescent at home, it might even seem like your son or daughter conducts their entire life on social media. While most platforms are created as a way for people to connect and share images/videos about their lives, most of them can also be used for more illicit activity.
One of the most concerning social media trends among teens is that they’re able to buy drugs easily and anonymously on most of their favorite apps. All drug dealers have to do is post pictures of their products and use certain emojis and hashtags to advertise what they have in stock. Teens can search for any drug they want and find it within seconds. With no minimum age requirement, if a teen has an active account and is able to supply payment, dealers can sell drugs to them on the spot.
Although social media companies do not endorse this behavior and it is illegal in the US, most platforms aren’t able to stop this activity. Transactions are made within seconds and accounts can be deleted just as quickly. While Facebook has historically been a popular place for those looking to buy and sell drugs, Snapchat and Instagram are the most popular apps for teens wanting to buy drugs. New apps pop up every day though, so knowing what apps your teens use and what they do on them is good practice for every parent.
Snapchat is one of the most popular apps for buying and selling drugs because the messages automatically disappear. This feature prevents parents and the authorities from tracking or even seeing the messages. Dealers are aware that Snapchat is a platform used predominantly by people 18 years old and younger, so they get on the app and connect with teens who are trying to find drugs. They also use Snapchat to initiate contact with teens and reach out to them in an effort to find “new clients’.
Teens can also use Snapchat’s Snap Map to easily find their friends’ locations whenever they use the app. By using the “Quick Add” feature, teens can add a friend that several of their friends have in common. This makes it easy for drug dealers to be added as friends and to coordinate quick in-person exchanges of drugs and money.
Instagram is another go-to social media platform for finding and buying drugs for people of all ages. Dealers are bold and post pictures of their products and teens can send them a message requesting what they want. Many dealers will simply ask those who are able to pay for drugs for their location or mailing address. Once payment is sent, the buyer can then have the drugs brought to them immediately or sent to via the mail. Teens seeking drugs on Instagram just need money, an account, and an address to get anything they want.
Emojis as Code for Drugs
There are emojis, slang words, and hashtags you need to be aware of if you’re trying to monitor whether your teen is buying drugs on social media. McAfee, Drug Addiction Now, and The Cyber Security Alliance have all published lists of the ones most frequently used by teens for a variety of risky activities. These emojis and hashtags are used in text messages or in the comments, direct messages, or usernames on social media apps to communicate what’s for sale or what someone is trying to buy. They can also be used between teens texting/talking about drugs when they don’t want their parents to know what they’re talking about.
The following emojis are some of the most popular teens (and dealers) use for drugs:
🍁 (maple leaf) is the universal symbol for marijuana. However, any green leaf or tree can be used to represent marijuana, as well as broccoli. 🥬🌳🍀🍃🥦
❄️ ⛷⛄ 🌨 🤧 🎱 (snowflake, skier, snowman, blowing nose, and 8 ball)
🤤 😤 💊 🍬 (drooling face, angry guy, pill, candy)
💉 🎯 (syringe, arrow-in-target)
VAPING OR GETTING HIGH
💨 (puff of smoke/wind)
🌸 🌼 🌺 🌻 (flower)
Buying and Selling Drugs In-Person
While social media platforms have been a predominant vehicle for drug dealing, schools and places where teens hang out are still the primary spots drug dealers depend on to get their products into the hands of young people. Even if the arrangements are made via social media, the delivery of the substances can easily take place on school grounds or at a neighborhood hangout.
What You Can Do If You Think You’re Teen’s Using Social Media To Buy Drugs
- Talk To Your Teen. If you’re concerned, take time to talk with your teen. You can open the conversation by being curious and asking them non-accusatory questions. This approach is more likely to foster an honest conversation than coming to them with ready-made assumptions. It can be a challenging conversation to have, so seek support from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor before you begin the conversation.
- Stay Up-To-Date. Like social media apps themselves, slang, hashtags, and emojis for drugs and other activities that users want to keep under-the-radar are changing all the time. Do your best to talk with other parents, teachers, older teens, and adolescent drug and alcohol treatment providers to stay informed on the latest trends.
- Have Access To Your Teen’s Phone and Apps. It’s a good idea to have the password to your teen’s phone and passwords to all the apps on it. Keep a list somewhere so you can keep track of everything. Randomly check your teen’s phone for any new apps or communication activity you don’t recognize. You can respect your teen’s privacy while protecting them at the same time.
- Follow Your Teen’s Social Media Accounts. While your teen can always make an account you’re not aware of, it’s still good practice to “Follow” or “Friend” your teen on their social media accounts. It shows you’re interested in their lives and that you know how to use the apps they spend so much of your time on.
- Monitor Money Exchanging Apps/Accounts. Follow your teens on money exchanging apps like Venmo, Apple or Android Pay, or Facebook Messenger. Many teens have one of these apps so they can easily repay their friends when they go out together or buy things from each other. Pay special attention if you see one of the emojis that represent drugs or payments that don’t make sense to you.
We’re Here to Help
While this information may seem a little scary, having this knowledge will equip you to intervene and be aware of what your kids may be doing on social media.
If you suspect that your teen may be using, buying (or selling) drugs, we’re here to help. We invite you to reach out to our counselor, Clayton Goldberg, who specializes in teen substance abuse. Clayton is an excellent resource and can answer questions you may have about your teen’s use of alcohol or drugs.
Both Clayton and Linda Kagey are available to provide substance abuse counseling for your teen and your family.
We invite you to call our office at 832-928-0211 for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We are happy to discuss your specific needs and answer any questions you have. We have offices in Houston, TX, and we provide online therapy and recovery coaching for anyone living outside the Houston area.
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