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By now, you’ve probably heard of the fentanyl drug crisis gripping the nation. By some accounts, it’s now worse than the meth crisis, the heroin crisis, or the cocaine crisis that our nation has experienced in years past. Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. And what makes this crisis especially deadly is the fact that it’s being powered by social media.
Yes, that’s right, the same narcotics cartels notorious for creating devious plots to send illegal drugs across our borders are now experimenting with social media as a way to evade the authorities. They are boldly advertising their drugs for sale right on Instagram, and using encrypted social messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram to coordinate drops, pickups, and deliveries.
The deteriorating situation in Texas
In many ways, Texas has become the new battleground state in the fentanyl crisis, thanks in large part to the shared border between Texas and Mexico. In Texas, fentanyl overdoses are up 80% year-over-year. It’s now commonplace to hear about teens overdosing in middle-class Texas communities.
Mexican cartel members are using Instagram and TikTok to advertise their fentanyl pills and recruit smugglers. It’s lucrative for everyone involved, since people in Texas can easily earn tens of thousands of dollars to pick up illegal drug shipments in Mexico and bring them back to the United States. In some cases, they are using Cash App or Venmo to settle payments with cartel members and avoid detection by the authorities.
As you can see, social media plays a large role here. It all starts with the way the fentanyl pills are marketed. Many of the pills come in specific colors or markings, and can be made to look seductively attractive on social media. In fact, some of the authorities in Texas now refer to fentanyl as “the social media drug.” Through photos posted by the cartels on Instagram, potential buyers can check out what’s for sale. With a comment, they can confirm their intent to purchase. From there, it’s just a matter of sending messages via encrypted messaging services, and it’s possible to avoid any possible detection by the police or narcotics agents.
It’s getting to the point, in fact, where people feel confident enough for drug dealers to drop off fentanyl pills right in their mailbox. In a world where Amazon delivery drivers visit our porch or front door on a regular basis, it might not even look suspicious to neighbors. In a world populated by Uber delivery drivers, it won’t strike anyone as out of the ordinary if a different car stops by a certain house on every day of the week. Just business as usual, right?
What can be done?
The big question, of course, is whether this is a supply side issue or a demand side issue. In other words, should we go after the Mexican cartels or should we go after the everyday citizens who are buying these drugs?
Either way, social media platforms obviously have a large role to play. Surely, Instagram has some AI-powered image recognition tools in order to recognize fentanyl pills being displayed so publicly? Surely there’s something that can be done to shut off certain accounts for violating the terms of service of a social media platform? It’s time to hold platforms like Instagram and TikTok responsible for the social media drug craze that’s sweeping over the nation.