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Pills Contaminated with Fentanyl Sold on Social Media Drive Up the Number of Drug-Related Deaths Among Young People

In December of last year, just after 20-year-old Kade Webb passed away in a restroom at a Safeway Market in Roseville, California, the authorities unlocked his phone and immediately went to his social networking applications. He was found in the toilet. There, they discovered the one thing that they dreaded the most.

According to preliminary figures that were published this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mr. Webb’s death was one of approximately 108,000 drug-related deaths that occurred in the United States in 2017. This number represents a record. Authorities in charge of law enforcement have said that an alarming part of them unfolded in the same manner as his did: from counterfeit tablets laced with fentanyl that teens and young people acquired through social media.

According to statistics collected by the federal government, fatal overdoses have surpassed suicide, automobile accidents, and homicidal violence to become the biggest cause of avoidable death among those aged 18 to 45.

According to a new research that was published in the journal JAMA, the number of fatalities that were caused by fentanyl have soared from 253 in 2019 to 884 in 2021. This is despite the fact that the use of illegal drugs by teens in the United States has been decreasing since 2010.

The platforms have provided a quick and simple conduit during the coronavirus pandemic, a time when demand for illegal prescription drugs has increased. This demand has come from customers who are anxious and bored, as well as from those who are already struggling with addiction but were cut off from in-person group support during the pandemic.

Around three in the morning, the drug dealer made a delivery, as shown by the video captured by the family’s home security camera. Zach stepped outdoors, ingested a tablet, and then collapsed on the ground beside the curb. A neighbour who was just 15 years old discovered his body around 5 in the morning.

The ease with which drug traffickers may avoid discovery is something that Wendy Plunk, Zach’s mother, finds to be especially heartbreaking. She said that the individual who gave her kid the poisonous medication is still active on Snapchat, and she added, “I keep an eye on the person.” Every time he is thrown off, he changes his name a little and gets back on, but he always uses the same photo.

Users of Snapchat who search for terms like “fenta” or “xanax” or any other terminology related to drugs will now get prohibited results. They are sent to a video channel inside the app that has information from charitable organisations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that discusses “fentapills,” also known as the hazards of counterfeit OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and Adderall.

According to the most recent community standards report published by Facebook, during the fourth quarter of 2021, the company took action on four million drug-related transactions all across the globe. Instagram has responded to 1.2 million notifications, which include alerts from users as well as proactive detection technologies. These data indicate the total number of notifications.

A recent search on Instagram for the drug Percocet did trigger an automated warning and an offer of assistance from the platform. But it also produced a lot of results, such as an account that uploaded pictures of the pills along with contact information and phone numbers on the encrypted messaging applications Wickr and WhatsApp. Those apps were used to communicate securely.

It also drives distressed parents such as Kade Webb’s mother, Elizabeth Dillender, who is also the grandmother of Kade’s brand new daughter, Indigo Kade. She stated, “I’m not so naive to believe that social media is going away.” “I’m not so naive to think that social media is going away.” It is imperative that we collaborate with social media in order to provide information to these young people.

Ms. Dillender has expanded her effort to include social media channels such as Facebook and TikTok, in addition to hosting a podcast on Spotify devoted to raising awareness about fentanyl.

Recent episodes of her podcast have included other mothers from Mr. Webb’s hometown of Rocklin, California, such as Laura Didier. Ms. Didier’s ex-husband discovered their son Zach, who was 17 years old at the time, lying over and motionless in his bedroom a year before Mr. Webb passed away. Zach was typing on his computer. Zach assumed he was getting a Percocet when he purchased something from a dealer on Snapchat.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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