Drug ads on social media are the new normal, study finds

"Before it was a case for youngsters of whether they should really risk it, going on to the street to buy drugs. But now because it's on their feed and on their timeline, many are thinking 'why not?’”

One in four young people have seen illegal drugs advertised by dealers on social media, according to the first definitive study of the link between social media and drug use.

The study, commissioned by British advocacy group Volteface, surveyed 2000 16- to 24-year-olds.  One quarter of those surveyed told researchers they commonly saw drug ads on Facebook (47%), Instagram (55%) and Snapchat (56%). 

Cannabis was the most popular illicit substance advertised on social media, followed by cocaine and MDMA/ecstasy. 

"It's so easy. People joke around about being friends with their drug dealer, because the dynamic between the buyer and the dealer has changed. It's no longer this scary concept of this hooded person on the street.”

Almost half of the under-18s surveyed were untroubled by the practice of drug dealers peddling their wares on popular social platforms. Researchers agree that, for this age group, paid drug ads have become a fact of everyday online life.

“For them, it’s a normal part of day to day life,” said Volteface spokesperson Lizze McCulloch.

"It's so easy. People joke around about being friends with their drug dealer, because the dynamic between the buyer and the dealer has changed. It's no longer this scary concept of this hooded person on the street,” one teen-aged commentator told Sky News UK in a report broadcast this week. 

Adults who’ve never encountered come-ons for illicit substances probably just don’t know how to look, added another 17-year-old. “The older generation …  might not see it online, because they don't know the key word to search for drugs for sale."

It was a reference to the hashtags young people use to “unlock the door” to drug content.

weed hashtags

 

Unsurprisingly, the platforms in question denied any wrongdoing in accepting ad revenue from the dealers of illegal substances. 

Instagram and Facebook - which are owned in common - issued a joint statement insisting, “We don’t allow the sale or purchase of illegal drugs … We work closely with the police to keep drugs content off our platforms.”

Snapchat’s disclaimer struck a similar note.  “Our community guidelines prohibit anyone from using Snapchat to buy or sell drugs … We encourage anyone who sees illegal content to report it.”

 

Family Zone helps schools and families create environments where children thrive - online and off. Start your free trial and start protecting your child's digital health and wellbeing today!

Tell me more!

Topics: Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Social Media, drugs, advertising

Try Family Zone for FREE

Sign up now to try Family Zone for 1 month, totally free of charge.

Free Trial
Subscribe to our newsletter
Follow us on social media
Popular posts
Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | roblox
Roblox: What parents must know about this dangerous game for kids
Parental Controls | Screen time | youtube | smartphones | WhatsApp | suicide | self-harm | momo
MOMO unmasked
Parental Controls | Screen time | musical.ly | online predators | tiktok
It's the world's most popular app. And you've probably never heard of it.
Parental Controls | Pornography | Cyber Safety | Social Media | parenting | digital parenting
Pornstar to parents: shame on you!
Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | vpn
VPN apps: what are they and why are teens now using them?
Parental Controls | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | instagram
30 seconds: the time it takes to find porn on Instagram

Recent posts

 
Screen-time, learning and literacy: What every digital parent needs to know

Too much screen-time has eroded the academic performance of Aussie students over the past five years - and devices “pervasively penetrating ...

 
The hours your kids will never get back

A new online platform has been developed to show us exactly how much of our lives device use is gobbling up.

 
Experts' top tips for a kinder internet

Trolling. Cyberbullying. Revenge porn. Violence. Hate speech. Sometimes it seems the internet has turned empathy into an endangered species.

 
Are screens a mental health risk at your child's school?

If BYOD and 1:1 device policies are in place - as they are in nearly every school across Australia - the answer is most likely ‘yes.’