Drug deals via apps: social networks, coded emoji and cash apps

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Police report seeing increasing evidence of drug dealing via apps like Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok – and say it’s one of the factors behind the spike in drug-related deaths. drug through fentanyl contaminated pills.

Emoji are used as code for different drugs, deals made in private messages, and apps like Venmo and Cash App used for payment…

Background

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid pain reliever, which is increasingly being used as a recreational drug and can be fatal when used alone or mixed with other drugs. It has recently been reported that an increasing number of deaths result from mixing fentanyl with other controlled substances.

After a catastrophic rise in 2020, deaths from drug overdoses hit record highs again in 2021, nearing 108,000, the result of an ever-worsening fentanyl crisis, according to new preliminary data. released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. […]

A growing share of deaths continue to come from overdoses of fentanyl, a class of potent synthetic opioids that are often mixed with other drugs […]

Because fentanyl is a white powder, it can be easily combined with other drugs, including opioids like heroin and stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, and can be stamped into counterfeit anti-drug pills. -anxiety like Xanax. Such mixtures can prove deadly if addicts do not know they are taking fentanyl or are unsure of the dose.

Drug sales through apps

A NY Times report indicates that social media applications are now the primary how teenagers and young adults purchase illegal drugs. Dealers create profiles with enough clues to be recognized by their target market, and transactions occur through private messages.

Shortly after 20-year-old Kade Webb collapsed and died in a bathroom at a Safeway Market in Roseville, California in December, police opened his phone and went straight to his apps. social media. There they found exactly what they feared.

Mr. Webb, a laid-back snowboarder and skateboarder who, with the impending birth of his first child, had become dispirited by his finances clouded by the pandemic, purchased Percocet, a prescription opioid, through a dealer on Snapchat. It turned out to be fortified with a lethal amount of fentanyl.

Mr Webb’s death was one of nearly 108,000 drug-related deaths in the United States last year, a record high, according to preliminary figures released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Law enforcement authorities say an alarming chunk of them happened the same way his did: from counterfeit fentanyl-tainted pills that teens and young adults bought on social media. social.

“Social media is almost exclusively how they get the pills,” said Morgan Gire, district attorney for Placer County, Calif., where 40 people died of fentanyl poisoning last year. He filed murder charges against a 20-year-old man accused of being Mr Webb’s dealer, who has pleaded not guilty. “About 90% of the pills you buy from a social media dealer are now fentanyl,” Mr. Gire said.

Emoji are one of the main cues used to signal the availability of drugs without alerting moderators and law enforcement. Messages are created and then quickly deleted once people respond.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is conducting a public awareness campaign A pill can kill.

“Drug dealers advertise on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. These ads are disappearing, 24 hour stories and messages,
which are quickly posted and deleted. Posts and stories are often accompanied by known code words and emojis that are used to market and sell illicit and deadly drugs on social media. These code words and emojis are designed to evade detection by law enforcement and the predefined algorithms used by social media platforms.

Potential buyers contact drug dealers on social media apps in response to their advertisements, either by direct messaging or by commenting on a post. Once contact is made, drug dealers and potential buyers often turn to an encrypted communication app like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. Drug dealers typically turn to these encrypted communication apps to arrange drug deals with potential buyers.

Once a deal is struck, drug dealers demand payment using one-click apps like Venmo, Zelle, Cash App, and Remitly.

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