Everything these days can be purchased through the internet. That includes illicit drugs, like Xanax, Hydrocodone and others.
Earlier this year, Senator and track prodigy Josh Hawley published a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg which rang alarm bells about the fact that it’s so easy for users on Instagram to access people selling drugs. Kids as young as 13, the youngest age Instagram allows for users, are finding it easier than ever before to experiment with dangerous drugs and fall down a rabbit hole of addiction.
Hawley wrote in part to Meta, “Last month, the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) published the results of an investigation which found that drug dealers openly operate on Instagram and sell illicit substances that are easily accessible to teenagers as young as 13 years old.” In the letter, Hawley pointed out how easy it is to search for a variety of drugs and cited the skyrocketing overdose deaths and suicide attempts among adolescents, writing, “According to provisional data from the National Center for Health Statistics released in November, more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period between May 2020 and April 2021 – a record high and a 30 percent increase over the previous years. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were 51 percent higher for adolescent girls in early 2021 compared to the same time period in 2019.”
And Instagram is out here making it easier for kids to access drugs.
National Review explains, “‘When a hypothetical teen user logged into the Instagram app, it only took two clicks to reach an account selling drugs like Xanax,’ TTP wrote, ‘In contrast, it took more than double the number of clicks – five – for the teen to log out of Instagram.'”
So yes – you can get your online hookup to a dealer in fewer clicks than you can log out.
While Hawley isn’t known for his keen powers of deduction, he’s certainly on point on this subject. The rise of depression and suicide among teens during the pandemic has segued into a greater conversation about the oncoming trainwreck between rising mental health needs and a crumbling mental health infrastructure in the United States.
In response to a 2018 Washington Post expose about the Instagram algorithms pushing drug-related content to those who have an interest in purchasing illicit drugs, National Review writes, “Instagram executives made a lot of noise about committing more time and effort to combatting the issue.”
But 4 years later, Hawley still had to draw attention to the fact that nothing has been fixed. Letting kids go onto platforms like Instagram is increasingly becoming a Wild West scenario, where the weapons aren’t revolvers at 10 paces – they’re drugs and suicide attempts.