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The Dark Side of Social Media and the Internet: A Gateway to the Online Drug Trade

(A Detailed Guide for Parents About the Inner Workings of the Online Drug Trade)

An article about what to do when treatment doesn't seem like an option

A person on their phone browsing social media

How Social Media & the Internet Has Changed the Drug Trade

In an age where the internet and social media platforms have become integral parts of our lives, it is no surprise that they have also become hubs for various activities, both positive and negative. One of the more concerning aspects is the use of platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Kik as channels for finding and purchasing drugs. This article aims to shed light on how these platforms are utilized by both kids and adults to engage in drug-related activities, highlighting the associated risks and potential solutions.

Important Questions Answered

The Rise of Social Media in the Online Drug Trade:

Social media platforms have transformed the way we communicate, connect, and share information. Unfortunately, they have also provided opportunities for those involved in illegal activities to exploit these platforms for their benefit. The anonymous nature, vast user base, and ease of communication offered by platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Kik make them ideal breeding grounds for drug-related activities.


Snapchat gained popularity due to its ephemeral nature, allowing users to send self-destructing messages and media. This feature, however, has been exploited by drug dealers who use the platform to share time-limited offers, negotiate deals, and arrange meetups without leaving a digital trail. Users can also create private groups or stories, making it harder for law enforcement to monitor illegal activities.


Instagram, known for its visually appealing content, has also become a marketplace for drug trade. By using hashtags and private messaging, individuals can discreetly promote and sell drugs to interested buyers. Some dealers even create separate accounts to showcase their products, attracting potential customers with enticing images and captions. Common names, Slang Terms, & popular hashtags used for accounts that promote or sell narcotics are things such as “#PlugLove”, “FastDrops420”, “NYCPlug”, “#SmokePlug”, altered words such as “Druks” as an alternative for the word “drugs”, “#Snow”, “#whitegirl”, “#Pressies”(Counterfeit Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl), “#Fetty”, etc.. Common emojis are also used such as “🍁”(Marijuana),  “💨”(Marijuana),  "Blues" (Counterfeit Oxycodone Made With Fentanyl), “💊”(Prescription Pills), “💉”(Heroin), “👧🏼”(Cocaine), “❄️” (Cocaine), etc..


Kik, a messaging app popular among teenagers, has been widely criticized for its role in facilitating drug-related activities. With its anonymity feature, users can create fake profiles / groups and engage in private conversations, making it difficult for authorities to track illegal transactions. Moreover, private group chats within Kik provide a space where drug-related discussions and sales can occur undetected. These groups can be found by searching for your city and any of the above mentioned slang terms. But Buyer Beware, there are plenty of hidden dangers afoot. 


Craigslist is a public local classifieds app & website used for posting services, selling everything from items, houses, & vehicles, finding roommates or apartments, jobs and many other things. In recent years, especially in big cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City, craigslist has become a haven for drug dealers to find new clientele by posting ads for narcotics. Dealers can even be found that will deliver the drugs to you, or in some cases, they will even use services like Uber Package to have the drugs sent directly to you in an envelope or box after the buyer sends a digital payment via Venmo, Cashapp, Zelle, etc..

Popular search queries to find narcotics listed on craigslist are slang terms such as “Roofing Tar” & “Roofing Materials” (Black Tar Heroin), “Dog Food” (Heroin), “China Plates” (Fentanyl), “Crystal Stemware” or “Window Cleaning Services” (Methamphetamine), or “Snow Machine(s)” (Cocaine).

A girl denying drugs that are being offered.
Additional Info

More Tips for Parents on the Subject

Parents need to keep an eye out for search queries such as these and stay up to date on the street slang used for such narcotics. Keep an eye out for suspicious deliveries, text messages, or internet/social media activity on your home computer, your child's phones or email/social media accounts.

Oftentimes once an online account is located that is advertising narcotics for sale, dealers will instruct the buyer to contact them on an encrypted or untraceable messaging app such as Telegram or Signal that deletes messages after a period of time and is secure through encryption unless law enforcement obtains a warrant and forces the company to give them access to the chat logs. Dealers will also “verify” a buyer's identity by checking their social media accounts and or having them send a selfie of themselves while holding their photo identification in view of the camera such as a driver's license or a state ID. This alone bears its own risks by giving your personal information to a stranger, and worse yet, a shady character on the internet with already not so great intentions. 

The Dangers and Risks:

Risks Associated with the Online Drug Trade

The use of social media and the internet to facilitate drug trade carries significant risks for both buyers and sellers. Here are a few key dangers to consider:

  • Quality and Safety Concerns:

    Buying drugs online comes with the risk of purchasing counterfeit or adulterated substances. Users may unknowingly ingest dangerous substances that can have severe health consequences or even be fatal. Oftentimes street drugs are contaminated with various kinds of low quality cutting agents, substitute chemicals or substances, and other drugs are increasingly mixed with fentanyl to increase euphoric effects while keeping costs down. Leading to a widespread increase in overdoses and death among users who didn’t even know that they were ingesting the deadly drug.
  • Legal Implications:

    Engaging in drug-related activities through social media platforms can have severe legal consequences. Authorities are increasingly monitoring these platforms and have been successful in apprehending individuals involved in drug trade online through undercover sting operations.
  • Getting Robbed:

    Many of these social media “Drug Dealers” have no intention of delivering the drugs at all. They will have the buyer send the money electronically up-front (before the drugs are delivered), either in Bitcoin via Cashapp or using other electronic transaction services such as Venmo, Zelle, Paypal, etc… Buyers will more than likely never see the substances that they paid for and receive no follow up contact beyond the payment being sent. That's the best case scenario for being robbed by a stranger online while trying to purchase narcotics. Most transactions are done in person so there is no evidence or “paper trail” left behind by the electronic transactions. Buyers run a serious risk of being mugged or robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint when arriving for the meetup, which obviously is a  huge risk factor presented in purchasing narcotics online.
  • Accessibility to Minors:

    Social media platforms provide a gateway for children and teenagers to access illegal substances. The ease of communication and the ability to bypass age restrictions make it challenging for parents and authorities to monitor and control their online activities.
The Solution

Combating the Issue:

To address the misuse of social media platforms for drug trade, various stakeholders must work together:

Snapchat, Instagram, and Kik have become breeding grounds for illegal drug activities, with users exploiting the anonymity and ease of communication these platforms provide. The accessibility of drugs to minors, safety concerns regarding the quality of substances, and legal implications highlight the urgency to address this issue.

Combating the misuse of social media platforms for drug trade requires a collaborative effort between various stakeholders. Education and awareness play a crucial role in empowering individuals, especially young users, with the knowledge and understanding of the risks involved. Parents, guardians, and educators must engage in open conversations about the dangers of purchasing drugs online, emphasizing the potential consequences for both physical health and legal ramifications.

Furthermore, social media companies bear a responsibility to invest in more robust monitoring tools and algorithms to swiftly detect and remove drug-related content. By actively collaborating with law enforcement agencies, these platforms can aid in identifying and tracking individuals engaged in illegal activities. Ongoing communication between social media companies and law enforcement will facilitate a proactive approach in curbing drug trade on these platforms.

Law enforcement agencies must also allocate adequate resources to investigate and crack down on drug-related activities on social media platforms. Coordinated efforts at local, national, and international levels are essential to effectively combat this issue. By staying vigilant and adapting to the evolving tactics employed by those involved in the drug trade, law enforcement can disrupt illicit networks and hold individuals accountable for their actions.

Additionally, partnerships between social media platforms, law enforcement agencies, and organizations dedicated to substance abuse prevention can be instrumental in raising awareness, sharing information, and developing strategies to address the issue at its core. These partnerships can help establish guidelines, protocols, and reporting mechanisms to efficiently handle drug-related content and suspicious activities on social media platforms.

The use of social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Kik for drug-related activities is a concerning phenomenon. The anonymity, accessibility, and ease of communication provided by these platforms make them attractive to both buyers and sellers. However, by fostering education, improving platform monitoring, and strengthening law enforcement efforts, we can work towards mitigating the risks and protecting individuals, especially young users, from the dangers associated with online drug trade. It is crucial for society as a whole to be proactive in addressing this issue and create a safer digital environment for everyone.

While efforts to combat drug trade on social media platforms are crucial, it is equally important to address the underlying factors that contribute to its prevalence. Societal issues such as addiction, lack of accessible support systems, and socioeconomic factors play a significant role in driving individuals towards seeking drugs online. By addressing these root causes, we can work towards reducing the demand for illicit substances and creating a healthier and safer society.

Investing in substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation programs is paramount. By providing individuals with the necessary resources, support, and treatment options, we can help curb the demand for drugs and provide a pathway to recovery. Education campaigns, both online and offline, should focus on raising awareness about the dangers of substance abuse, promoting healthy coping mechanisms, and informing individuals about available support systems.

Furthermore, creating alternative online communities and platforms that foster positive engagement can divert individuals away from the dark side of social media. Encouraging the development and promotion of platforms focused on hobbies, interests, mental health, and personal growth can provide healthier and more constructive online environments.

Collaboration between social media platforms and mental health organizations can also be beneficial. By incorporating mental health resources and helpline information directly into platforms, users in need of support can easily access assistance. Additionally, implementing algorithms that identify and redirect users searching for drug-related content towards help resources can make a significant impact.

Parents, guardians, and educators have a vital role to play in protecting young individuals from the dangers of online drug trade. Open lines of communication, digital literacy education, and active monitoring of their online activities can help identify warning signs and intervene early. Encouraging positive offline activities, fostering strong relationships, and promoting a healthy balance between virtual and real-world interactions can reduce the likelihood of young individuals seeking drugs online.


Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the misuse of social media platforms for drug trade is a concerning issue that demands attention and action. By addressing the issue holistically, through education, awareness, improved platform monitoring, law enforcement efforts, and tackling underlying societal factors, we can work towards creating a safer online space for individuals of all ages. Collaboration among stakeholders, including social media companies, law enforcement agencies, mental health organizations, and parents, is vital in curbing the prevalence of online drug trade and protecting vulnerable individuals from its dangers. Together, we can build a digital landscape that promotes well-being, safety, and positive engagement.