teens are buying drugs on instagram finds unsurprising new report

Dealers are turning social media apps into lucrative digital drug houses, with Tinder and Instagram being particularly popular platforms.

by Hannah Ongley
Apr 8 2016, 9:43pm

Just swiping and scrolling through Tinder and Instagram will reveal that the platforms aren't solely for finding dates and outfit inspo. Social media and dating apps are used just as frequently for political campaigningfeminist activismart projects, and selling products. And if you can buy a pair of sneakers by swiping right, who's to say buying a gram of MDMA isn't the next logical step? Not kids these days, according to a couple of recent reports that shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who'd prefer sliding into a DM to loitering in a dark street waiting for a stranger named Fun Timez. The trend is scary, but it's also a natural progression of a youth culture turning to technology to at least facilitate, if not completely replace, face-to-face interaction. 

On Instagram, drug purchases normally begin with the user browsing hashtags like #mdma or #weed4sale, The Guardian claims. The deal will then take place either in person or online, via both encrypted or traceable payment methods. A quick scroll through #mdma confirms that dealers aren't exactly subtle about what they're doing. "New in stock sponge bob mdma," reads one of the first captions to pop up, from a profile that claims, "Looking to hook up with potential donors. Have a few things I need to get off my hands so dm me if I have something you like." Moe, a former user who bought drugs online from the age of 16, told The Guardian that online dealers mostly sell their drugs as "research". He said, "Despite packaging them specifically for human consumption, vendors attempt plausible deniability when it comes to what they sell." Meanwhile an undercover reporter for the Liverpool Echo was able to score two twenty bags off a dude named "Jack" just by swiping through his Tinder matches. 

It isn't just illicit substances being peddled via social media. The Guardian notes that the internet is also a natural and necessary channel for transgender teens who don't have access to hormones. Online purchases allow such kids to circumvent the restrictions of both their parents and the FDA. "The system doesn't guarantee what trans people need, and illegal underground behavior becomes the way to get it, which in turn sustains systemic problems ... including sex work to pay for the drugs," sociologist Bilal Zenab Ahmed explained.

Instagram has distanced itself (duh) from claims that it functions as a digital drug house. "Promoting the sale of, or selling marijuana and other drugs is against our community guidelines," said an Instagram spokesperson. "We encourage anyone who comes across violating content to report it via our built-in reporting tools." Tinder declined a request for comment. 

One thing's for sure: it's a weird world when you can buy #mephedrone on Instagram but you can't post a nipple.


Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Jamie

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