Fentanyl Pill Victims Are Getting Younger. Parents Blame Social Media.
On June 4, 2021, parents and family members gathered in 30 cities around the country to protest social media companies’ inaction on drug sales on their platforms. The protest in Santa Monica focused on Snapchat headquarters. Organized by the Association of People Against Lethal Drugs (APALD), protestors brought photos of their loved ones framed in the Snapchat logo and the statement “Snapchat is an accomplice to my murder.”
Over the last year, victims of deadly counterfeit pills have been trending younger. In November 2020, we shared the story of 14-year-old Alondra Valeria Salinas, an Arizona teen who died after taking a counterfeit oxycodone pill she bought on Snapchat.
Since then, we have found other young victims, including Alexander Neville, a 14-year-old California boy whose mother Amy Neville organized the protest at Snapchat headquarters. She told us that along with failing to keep drug dealers off their platform, Snapchat has not been responsive to law enforcement requests for information about users suspected of drug dealing.
Snapchat is a publicly-traded company with a reported $100 billion valuation that made $2.5 billion in 2020.
Snapchat is not alone in seeing criminal activity on their platform. However, Snapchat has an extremely young user base, so the risk of failing to address it effectively is a serious problem and something all parents need to be aware of.
Social media companies need to be more proactive in blocking dangerous content and must be held accountable for ignoring the sale of deadly fake drugs on their platforms.
In the meantime, every parent must talk to their kids about fake pills. Please download and share our handout "Talking to Your Family About Counterfeit Medicine" today. These conversations with your kids can’t happen soon enough.
"Snapchat told us in a recent call with other victim families that they are a small company that doesn't have the staff to respond to all the requests they get from law enforcement."
~ Amy Neville, mother of Alexander Neville
Talking to your family about counterfeit meds: What our family advocates wish they could have said about the risks of counterfeit pills.
Sample toolkits for educators: Examples of toolkits for middle school through college age students
Litigation against Snapchat, October 2022
S-3 Research - A company created by Tim Mackey to identify illegal drug sales on social media platforms, the Internet (including online pharmacies), e-commerce platforms, and the dark web.
Victims of Illicit Drugs - A coalition of parents who have lost children to fentanyl sold on social media.