The the social media sites that young people love so much have also turned into virtual bazaars of illicit drugshelping to explain the explosive problems with the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl and why opioids and their overdoses have become one of the leading killers of Americans aged 18-45.
During the coronavirus pandemic in particular, and continuing, Snapchat, TikTok and other social media apps, including those that allow users to exchange encrypted or vanishing messages, have helped fuel a market boom in Percocet, Xanax and other prescription pills, The New York Times reported. Authorities warned that these drugs on their own would be hugely problematic, but criminal traffickers have also begun smearing their wares with fentanyl – an easily manufactured opioid that requires only minute doses to deliver a big kick, rapid dependence and an all too easy death. As the newspaper reports:
“Overdoses are now the leading cause of preventable death among people aged 18 to 45, ahead of suicide, traffic accidents and gun violence, according to federal data. Although the use of experimental drugs by adolescents in the United States has been declining since 2010, their deaths from fentanyl have skyrocketed from 253 to 884 in 2021 in 2019, according to a recent study. study in JAMA magazine. According federal data.
“Just as drug traffickers in the 1980s and 1990s seized pagers and burn-in phones to conduct their business in secret, today’s suppliers have embraced modern iterations – social media and mobile apps. messaging with privacy features such as encrypted or vanishing messages Dealers and young shoppers typically spot each other on social media and then often proceed by messaging each other directly Platforms have been a fast and easy during the coronavirus pandemic, when demand for illicit prescription drugs has surged, both from anxious and bored clients and those already struggling with addiction who have been cut off from in-person group support.
The surge in demand coincided with criminals making illicit supplies more readily available, including those involving fentanyl, the newspaper found:
“Supplies of tainted pills, roughly pressed by Mexican cartels with chemicals from China and India, have increased accordingly. Fentanyl, faster and cheaper to produce than heroin and 50 times more potent , is a highly addictive filler.Last year, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration seized 20.4 million counterfeit pills, which experts say represent only a small fraction of those produced.Its scientists say that ‘about four out of 10 pills contain lethal doses of fentanyl. The result is that new waves of clients quickly become addicted, said Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “When you put fentanyl in pills sold as benzodiazepines or for pain, you reach a new group of customers that you wouldn’t have if you were just selling fentanyl powder.”
Tim Mackeya University of California, San Diego professor who runs a federally funded startup that has developed artificial intelligence software to detect illicit online drug sales, told The New York Times this about the adaptation of technology by crooked resellers:
“There are drug dealers on all major social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok and emerging platforms like Discord and Telegram. It’s all an ecosystem problem: as long as your child is on one of these platforms, they will have the potential to be exposed to drug dealers.
Social media companies and law enforcement have tried to crack down on online drug trafficking, but just one site reported deleting more than 100,000 illicit accounts, and expert Mackey estimates that criminals are running 10,000 drug-related accounts per month. Young users and their shady dealers are also showing real savvy in evading detection when using social media platforms, for example by scanning comments posted about celebrities and others who might mention a drug. Buried in the long text strings are surreptitious communications about pill deals.
But even with their technological savvy, young people have big blind spots of ignorance, researchers have found, determining through surveys and interviews, that they remain oblivious to warnings about fentanyl, opioids (more generally ) and the terrible toll of this long-standing disease. , a major health threat.
More than 108,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses, most of them being opioids or synthetic versions of them or illegal hard narcotics, experts have reported, based on yet-to-be-finalized data. These are record numbers, and they come on top of the harsh reality that the crisis in opioid abuse and drug overdoses has killed an estimated 500,000 Americans in a decade.
In my practice, I not only see harms experienced by patients when seeking medical servicesbut also the harm that dangerous drugs can inflict on them and their loved onesespecially prescription products like Big Pharma’s addictive painkillers.
The Opioid Crisis — promoted for years by Big Pharma, doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurers and others in the US healthcare system – has entered its final and particularly bad stage with extremely potent and easily manufactured synthetic painkillers, such as fentanyl, flooding the country.
The civil justice system has proven to be one of the most powerful ways for individuals, families, cities, counties, states, Indian tribes and others to seek financial redress and a modicum of justice for those who flooded the country with billions more prescription drugs. that patients could never consume, fueling the nightmare we are currently living.
The lawsuits have not only begun to provide financial compensation that desperate victims, their loved ones and communities can use to help drug addicts as well as cover the huge public costs of dealing with the opioid crisis, they have also helped to expose the nefarious conduct, especially by Big Pharma, in creating this ever-worsening mess.
Charles Ornstein, now director of information at the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative website ProPublica, but also himself a dogged, Pulitzer-winning researcher into the lies of Big Pharma, reflected on how, ultimately, pharmaceutical companies were forced to disclose the many ways they misled the public about opioids.
The most recent harsh revelations have concerned drug giant Mallinckrodt’s lesser-known, relentless and destructive opioid trade. ProPublica has done a lot to initiate online public disclosure of doctors’ oilseed dealings with Big Pharma, the investigator wrote, adding:
“We stopped updating our Dollars for Docs tool in 2019 because the government Open payments The database is robust and updated every year and has improved over time. Yet research into these documents has reinforced my view of the importance for patients to know about their doctor’s relationship with pharmaceutical companies and to speak directly to their doctor about the medications they are prescribed. Here are some of the questions you might want to ask: What type of work do you do with these companies? Have you prescribed me drugs made by companies from which you have received payments? Are there any non-drug alternatives I might consider first? Are there cheaper generic alternatives to the medications you have prescribed? What devices have you used at my expense that are manufactured by companies from which you have received payments? »
Good questions. We have so many more questions to ask and learn about how Big Pharma puts profits first, including destroying so many lives. We have a lot of work to do to quell the opioid crisis, help its victims, and ensure that a preventable disaster like this never happens again.