This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Instagram and Snapchat used to be the preserve of thirst traps, holiday selfies and dumb videos posted to amuse your mates. But there's a much darker side to the social media platforms – one frequented by dealers looking to sell Class A drugs and even guns and ammunition. And it's all posted in public, for anybody to buy at the tap of a DM.
The most recent European Drug Report calls this the "uberisation" of drugs – a world where it takes less effort to pick up a couple of grams of cocaine than it does to order a pizza from Domino's, with dealers adopting the same marketing techniques as legitimate businesses. Glossy product shots, bundles and even competition giveaways – we saw it all in the new episode of High Society.
According to drug harm reduction advocacy group Volteface, one in four young people have been advertised drugs on social media. The majority of listings seen were for cannabis, but cocaine, MDMA, Xanax and nitrous oxide were also high up on the list. On Instagram, it only took VICE host Tir Dhondy five minutes to get in touch with a dealer who offered to meet her to sell drugs.
One dealer told her: "Anyone can sell nowadays. You see little kids, 12-year-olds and everything, setting up accounts. It’s easy, isn’t it? You can sit at home, make an account and make money. Who doesn’t want to do that?”
There are real-world consequences to advertising and selling drugs off these social media platforms. NHS data has shown Class A drug use among 11 to 15-year-olds is increasing, and there have been a number of high-profile cases of children fatally overdosing.
Kerry Cheshire, whose 13-year-old daughter Eboney died of an MDMA overdose in Rainhill, believes that Instagram or Snapchat is unlikely to do anything: "I don’t think there s a lot we can do about that, unless somebody stands up and reports them for doing it." (Instagram and Snapchat said that their platforms prohibit the sale and purchase of drugs and urged users to report it if they saw it.)
Watch the new episode of High Society below.