The kids are not alright, they are dying! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths among young people has increased dramatically. Among young people 14–18 years, overdose deaths increased 94% from 2019 to 2020 and 20% from 2020 to 2021.

At a time when it feels like our collective pain and trauma is too much to bear, we owe it to our kids to take a breath and focus on the kids. It’s NOT pretty…

  • Median monthly overdose deaths among persons aged 10–19 years increased 109% from July–December 2019 to July–December 2021
  • Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyls (IMFs) increased 182%.
  • Approximately 90% of deaths involved opioids and 84% involved IMFs.
  • Counterfeit pills were present in nearly 25% of deaths.
  • Two thirds of those that died had one or more potential bystanders present, but most provided no overdose response.
  • Approximately 41% of those that died had evidence of mental health conditions or treatment.

Don’t look away! Overdoses are now the leading cause of preventable death among people ages 18 to 45, ahead of suicide, traffic accidents and gun violence, according to federal data.

It’s well past time that we pour our energies into educating adolescents (our preteens, teens, and young adults) about the dangers of  illicitly manufactured fentanyls and counterfeit pills.

Don’t Believe The CDC? Let’s Hear From The Parents Of Dead Kids

Over 60 parents—whose kids all allegedly obtained illegal drugs through Snapchat, resulting in death for all but two of the children—have filed a case against Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, alleging the social media platform enables drug dealers in reaching minors and young adults.

“Kids are losing their lives, and they swept it under the rug. They had their chance to do the right thing, and they chose profits over people. The way that we are going to bring Snapchat and other social media companies to the table, is through lawsuits and legislation. That is plain and simple.”

The lawsuit alleges that Snap and Snapchat’s role in illicit drug sales to teens was the foreseeable result of the designs, structures, and policies Snap chose to implement to increase its revenues. Automatically deleted messages, geolocation functionality and the My Eyes Only privacy feature – these are the SnapChat features that make illegal activities harder to track and may be what makes the app a hit with drug dealers.

Maybe as parents you think that you have prepared your child to navigate these tough situations and that your child knows that they can come to you for help, no matter what the topic. Good! But that may not be enough. A child, referenced in the lawsuit, told his parents that he had become addicted to oxycodone after obtaining it on Snapchat. Without hesitation, they arranged for him to go to a drug treatment center. He passed away the day after that conversation.

“About 9 o’clock, he came home, we said good night and that was literally the last time I saw him alive. Sometime after 9 o’clock, he took the pill that took his life. His death blindsided us. That’s how we learned about fentanyl.”

As cyber parents, we’ve been told to look out for bullies and to look out for sexual predators on social media. It’s time to turn our undivided attention to the unfettered access our kids have to deadly drugs.

“Putting your kid on Snapchat is like dropping him off in the most dangerous, drug-filled neighborhood and hoping he does well for himself.”

Are Changes To Section 230 Ahead?

Section 230 shields social media companies from most civil lawsuits linked to content on their platforms created by users — including users engaged in criminal activity. Advocates for the reform of Section 230 are not implying that tech is completely responsible for illicit drug sales.

“The question is what duty we should impose on those [social media] platforms to mitigate illegal illicit drug sales. The answer can no longer be 230’s near total immunity.”

Supporters of Section 230 argue it has allowed tech companies to open platforms to a wide array of speech. They fear changes could lead to a flood of lawsuits, forcing companies to curb controversial topics. But critics say immunity from civil lawsuits has allowed social media companies to focus on profits that come from attracting and engaging young people, while neglecting safety.

Parents Need A Crash Course in DrugSpeak!

Vast supplies of tainted pills, made by Mexican cartels with chemicals from China and India, have flooded this country. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) say that about four out of 10 pills contain lethal doses of fentanyl.

Parents may remember drug dealers back in their day using pagers and burner phones to promote their covert businesses. The modern-day drug sale uses social media and messaging apps with privacy features like encrypted or disappearing messages. Dealers and young buyers find each other on social media and then can directly message each other, quite possibly when their parents are right beside them!

So how can cyber parents begin to understand how drugs are sold on their children’s phone? Start by taking a look at the DEA’s  One Pill Can Kill public awareness campaign, including a poster called Emoji Drug Code: Decoded, with images of drug symbols.

Conversation Starters

  • Have you ever seen drugs being sold on social media or other places online?
  • Do you know of people that have purchased drugs on social media or online?
  • What do you think about drugs being sold on social media and other online platforms?
  • What do you know about Fentanyl?
  • Did you know that taking just one pill with the tiniest amount of Fentanyl can kill you?
  • Why do illegal drug producers add Fentanyl to their products?
  • Who can you talk to if you or someone you know is having issues with drugs?