Snapchat is cracking down on illegal drug sales on its platform, following an increase in US teen and young adult overdose deaths linked to pills laced with fentanyl.
A synthetic opioid, pharmaceutical fentanyl—up to 100 times more potent than morphine—is approved for treating severe pain, typically in cancer patients. It has, however, recently been linked to the deaths of teens and young adults across the US. As NBC News reports, fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills have been making the rounds on social media—particularly on Snapchat.
“We have heard devastating stories from families impacted by this crisis, including cases where fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills were purchased from drug dealers on Snapchat,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We are determined to remove illegal drug sales from our platform, and we have been investing in proactive detection and collaboration with law enforcement to hold drug dealers accountable for the harm they are causing our community.”
Snapchat’s new educational portal, Heads Up, provides trusted resources to prevent harm
It’s been a tough couple of years for young people, some of whom are turning to non-prescribed drugs to cope with high levels of stress and anxiety. But too many people don’t know enough about the substances they’re experimenting with to properly assess the danger. Or, according to Snap, they simply believe fentanyl is less risky than, say, heroin or cocaine.
“This lack of awareness can have devastating consequences when just one counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl can kill,” the blog said. With that in mind, Snapchat developed a new in-app educational portal called Heads Up, where users can find trusted resources designed to prevent harm. Search for drug-related keywords, and you’ll find content from Song for Charlie, Shatterproof, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and, coming soon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The firm also developed a video advertising campaign and is rolling out a new filter that raises awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit pills. Snap Original news show Good Luck America, meanwhile, will premiere soon with episodes about the fentanyl crisis.
“We believe it is our responsibility to keep our community safe on Snapchat,” Snap says. “We have made significant operational improvements over the past year to eradicate drug sales from our platform and we are continually working to improve. Our work here is never done, but we want to communicate updates as we make progress so that our community can […] hold us accountable.”
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