Drug dealers have turned to the internet and social media apps like Snap Chat to find customers during the pandemic, causing youth drug deaths to soar. Social media is almost exclusively how teens and young adults are getting illicit pills now, and about 90% of these pills contain fentanyl. And with features like encryption and disappearing messages on the most popular apps, their use for selling drugs keeps growing.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed the face of our country in many ways, particularly in the field of substance abuse treatment. Drug use soared nationwide when social distancing measures crippled a network built on connection and face-to-face interactions. The recovery community went virtual in response, turning to internet platforms that allow people to stay connected even when they can’t be in the same room. But while this shift proved advantageous for helping people recover from addiction, the power of the internet is accessible to everyone, including drug dealers.
During adolescence, kids can become more private and tend not to disclose everything to their parents. While this is a normal part of growing up, certain dangers can go undetected. It is crucial to have oversight to protect young adults, especially when it comes to online activity.
When monitoring online activity, it is important to fully understand what you are looking at. The online drug market has become such a problem that it has prompted the DEA to research the subject of emojis and their use in illicit drug transactions. They have since published a sort of decoder which explains the use of certain emojis in the drug trade. The more educated you are, the better chance you have at spotting possible risks. For example, heroin may symbolize a brown heart or a dragon emoji.
A list of common examples is shown below:
While many of us have heard of the dark web through movies or TV, very few visit it or know how to get there. Unfortunately for parents, with a simple Google search, someone can learn how to access and navigate the dark web. While not all activity on the dark web is nefarious, it is no place for teens and young adults to visit. Some sites sell many things that could be harmful to your child, including illicit drugs. It may be difficult for those who do not know much about the dark web to know if someone is using it.
Here are some tips to help:
This may seem counterintuitive and concerning, but we’ve entered a new age of drug abuse. We can no longer rely on old adages and our historical understanding of addiction. Today, teens are dying the first or second time they use drugs. They may not even have time to become addicted or dependent before ingesting a fake pill containing fentanyl. There may be no signs pointing towards drug abuse like slipping grades, isolation, or other classic behaviors. It’s essential to realize that users usually do not know they’re consuming a fentanyl-laced pill. The chart below will put things in perspective.
Fentanyl laced pills are flooding the streets:
As explained above, addiction isn’t necessary anymore for drug deaths to be commonplace. So, if you discover that a loved one is buying or consuming illicit substances, you should intervene. Waiting for them to become addicted and experience negative consequences before deciding to seek help is ill-advised and should be avoided in today’s epidemic. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Just take a look at recent trends: Fatal overdose among adolescents raised 94% from 2019 to 2020. There was an additional 20% raise from 2020 to 2021. 77% of all teen overdose deaths involved fentanyl. Fentanyl pills seized by law enforcement increased by 3,233% from 2018 to 2021.
If it is discovered that your child is heavily using drugs or alcohol, then a long-term program is always recommended to get them the help they need. However, it’s possible that even though your loved one is making poor decisions, they may not be suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Despite no “addiction” yet, they’ve demonstrated a need for change. Treatment for someone who hasn’t developed a physical dependence may be a much faster process and can often be done on an outpatient basis. The idea is to help the person learn to make better decisions for themselves. Competent treatment programs will help the patient address whatever they were aiming to mask or avoid with substances.
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