The National Crime Prevention Council, best known for its McGruff ad campaign, sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland. The group, which typically advocates for crime victims and children, is calling for an investigation of Snapchat’s role in the current fentanyl crisis among teens.

Snapchat’s Role in Teen Drug Overdoses

Teens across the nation have used Snapchat and other social media apps to purchase counterfeit pills. Usually, they think they’re getting Oxycontin. But they often end up with fentanyl mixed into the tablets. In addition, some pills contain only fentanyl, a drug that is 50 to 100 times the strength of morphine.

Recent media stories have highlighted the deaths of teens in California. Most teens bought a pill thinking it was Percocet, only to have it be pure fentanyl. Unfortunately, it has happened in other states, too. Recently, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, four schools have had suspected fentanyl overdoses on school grounds during regular hours.

Experimenting with drugs is deadlier than ever, yet drug dealers find it easier to find a mark for their goods. “Drug dealers are using American innovation to sell lethal products,” executive director Paul DePonte of NCPC wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Social media platforms bear some responsibility for these deaths.”

Teens and Fentanyl Sales on Social Media

Drug use among teens isn’t new, but many take to new platforms harder for police to pursue. Many teens describe finding a drug dealer on a chat app like Snapchat and ordering pills that turn out to have fentanyl in them. Teens are more anxious than ever, and some have used substances to help.

Drugs are easy to get via an anonymous phone app or social media. According to the CDC, experts say these have caused a 109% increase in overdose deaths for teens under 18 between 2019 and 2021. Most of these drugs – up to 84% — involved fentanyl.

Teens will always push their limits, but drug use can only be prevented through awareness and a clear understanding of the dangers. Fentanyl is so new it hasn’t been added to the drug prevention curriculum. Yet it’s so ubiquitous on the street the DEA says that over 80% of the drugs they seize have some amount of fentanyl added to them.

Holding Snapchat and Other Apps Accountable for Fentanyl

Paul DelPonte, Executive Director of NCPC, says that the time to hold companies like Snapchat responsible is now, not later. Facebook and Twitter have cracked down on drug dealing in recent years, but other social media sites continue to escape scrutiny, despite drug dealing being an open secret.

“Time is of the essence. In about the same amount of time it takes to read this letter, someone will die from fentanyl poisoning because they purchased a fake pill on a social media platform like Snapchat.”

Fake pills containing fentanyl are cheap and targeted at teens. They’re often sold for less than $25.00 by dealers using Snapchat. Just a few grains of fentanyl – 2mg – can kill a teen or opioid-naïve drug user.

More education needs to be done on fentanyl. It’s truly an emergency that scales the Oxy crisis, and teens do not seem to understand the dangers they face if they overdose. This is why many leaders have been calling on Congress to get the DEA and others involved in stopping the flood of fentanyl on chat apps like Snapchat.