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The group is calling on federal authorities to investigate Snapchat for selling fentanyl

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the U.S. grapples with its deadliest overdose crisis to date, a national crime prevention group is urging the Justice Department to end the role of social media in the distribution of fentanyl, the drug that is largely responsible for an alarming spike in overdose deaths among teenagers.

The National Crime Prevention Council sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday calling for an investigation. The group, known for its McGraw crime dog commercials, is particularly concerned about the sale of fake fentanyl pills on Snapchat, a popular platform among teenagers.

“Drug dealers are using American innovation to sell deadly products,” executive director Paul DePonte wrote. “Social media platforms bear some responsibility for these deaths.”

Overdose deaths in the U.S. hit a record last year, with an average of one death every five minutes in the U.S. Among teens ages 10 to 19, deaths rose 109% between 2019 and 2021, according to monthly average data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. diseases. and Prevention. According to a report released last week, the vast majority of those deaths, 84%, involved fentanyl.

Dealers use many social networks and platforms to exchange money, sometimes in the same transaction, but Snapchat’s encrypted technology and disappearing messages make it especially difficult to identify dealers, DePonte said.

The Ministry of Justice did not comment on the letter.

Snapchat’s parent company, for its part, said it has taken significant steps to improve security on the platform and has seen user reports of drug sales drop from more than 23% last year to 3.3% last month. He also supports a new bill to strengthen drug reporting by social media companies.

Jennifer Stout, Snap’s vice president of global public policy, said the company uses the technology to identify and remove dealers and support police investigations. “We will continue to do everything we can to deal with this national crisis,” she said in a statement.

Still, Snapchat is the most common platform grieving families mention when they reach out to his group for help, DePonte said.

Among those parents was Amy Neville, whose son Alex was 14 when he bought a pill he believed to be Oxycontin through the platform in June 2020. The boy had just told his parents about his drug experiments, and they were going to refer him to treatment.

One day he got his hair cut, went to have lunch with his father and hang out with friends. After he returned to the family’s home in Orange County, California, he went to his room and at some point took the pill that ended his life.

“The next morning I found him in my bed. The rest is crazy,” Amy Neville said. “After he died, we asked, ‘How did this happen?’ We thought we were prepared.”

Little did his family know about fentanyl, which federal authorities say can be deadly in amounts smaller than the tip of a pencil. Neville has been tragically educated in the years since her son’s death, and has also heard from other families whose children have died of overdoses after buying pills through Snapchat, often for less than $25.

Neville, who calls Snap’s recent changes “a little Band-Aid on a gaping wound,” is also part of a California lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit names several teenagers and young adults across the country who have died from accidental overdoses. It was filed by the social media victims law center, which is now representing 28 families whose children bought counterfeit pills through Snapchat. Founding attorney Matthew Bergman said the platform is the only one where their clients’ children have received fake or lethal pills.

The Drug Enforcement Administration called fentanyl “the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” and Administrator Ann Milgram said social media apps are the “perfect drug delivery tool” in a speech where she also called platforms such like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Ed Ternan became an activist after his son died at age 22 from a single fentanyl pill he mistook for Percocet. He said that since they became aware of the issue in early 2021, he has seen more action from Snapchat than from other platforms. But he would rather the government work with companies to prosecute dealers than launch a corporate investigation.

“When the gingerbread works, at some point the stick becomes counterproductive,” said Ternan, who serves on Snap’s security board. “I want to prevent death in the future. And we do this through educational awareness and joining forces with social media companies.”

While the latest data on overdose deaths show some encouraging signs, the number of fentanyl pills seized in the U.S. has doubled this year, the DEA said this week. The drug is mostly produced in illegal labs in Mexico, with precursor chemicals purchased in China, authorities said.

For drug traffickers, social media is as important today as phones and beepers were in years past, said Jim Carroll, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who is also an unpaid member of the Security Council, and advises Snap. He said there is no accurate data on how much fentanyl is sold through social media sites, but Snapchat’s huge popularity among young people may also help explain why dealers use the site and why more deaths are linked to the platform, he said.

“You can’t go after a phone company just because it’s a method of communication,” he said. Still, “All these social media companies need to do more.”

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The group is calling on federal authorities to investigate Snapchat for selling fentanyl

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the U.S. grapples with its deadliest overdose crisis to date, a national crime prevention group is urging the Justice Department to end the role of social media in the distribution of fentanyl, the drug that is largely responsible for an alarming spike in overdose deaths among teenagers.

The National Crime Prevention Council sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday calling for an investigation. The group, known for its McGraw crime dog commercials, is particularly concerned about the sale of fake fentanyl pills on Snapchat, a popular platform among teenagers.

“Drug dealers are using American innovation to sell deadly products,” executive director Paul DePonte wrote. “Social media platforms bear some responsibility for these deaths.”

Overdose deaths in the U.S. hit a record last year, with an average of one death every five minutes in the U.S. Among teens ages 10 to 19, deaths rose 109% between 2019 and 2021, according to monthly average data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. diseases. and Prevention. According to a report released last week, the vast majority of those deaths, 84%, involved fentanyl.

Dealers use many social networks and platforms to exchange money, sometimes in the same transaction, but Snapchat’s encrypted technology and disappearing messages make it especially difficult to identify dealers, DePonte said.

The Ministry of Justice did not comment on the letter.

Snapchat’s parent company, for its part, said it has taken significant steps to improve security on the platform and has seen user reports of drug sales drop from more than 23% last year to 3.3% last month. He also supports a new bill to strengthen drug reporting by social media companies.

Jennifer Stout, Snap’s vice president of global public policy, said the company uses the technology to identify and remove dealers and support police investigations. “We will continue to do everything we can to deal with this national crisis,” she said in a statement.

Still, Snapchat is the most common platform grieving families mention when they reach out to his group for help, DePonte said.

Among those parents was Amy Neville, whose son Alex was 14 when he bought a pill he believed to be Oxycontin through the platform in June 2020. The boy had just told his parents about his drug experiments, and they were going to refer him to treatment.

One day he got his hair cut, went to have lunch with his father and hang out with friends. After he returned to the family’s home in Orange County, California, he went to his room and at some point took the pill that ended his life.

“The next morning I found him in my bed. The rest is crazy,” Amy Neville said. “After he died, we asked, ‘How did this happen?’ We thought we were prepared.”

Little did his family know about fentanyl, which federal authorities say can be deadly in amounts smaller than the tip of a pencil. Neville has been tragically educated in the years since her son’s death, and has also heard from other families whose children have died of overdoses after buying pills through Snapchat, often for less than $25.

Neville, who calls Snap’s recent changes “a little Band-Aid on a gaping wound,” is also part of a California lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit names several teenagers and young adults across the country who have died from accidental overdoses. It was filed by the social media victims law center, which is now representing 28 families whose children bought counterfeit pills through Snapchat. Founding attorney Matthew Bergman said the platform is the only one where their clients’ children have received fake or lethal pills.

The Drug Enforcement Administration called fentanyl “the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” and Administrator Ann Milgram said social media apps are the “perfect drug delivery tool” in a speech where she also called platforms such like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Ed Ternan became an activist after his son died at age 22 from a single fentanyl pill he mistook for Percocet. He said that since they became aware of the issue in early 2021, he has seen more action from Snapchat than from other platforms. But he would rather the government work with companies to prosecute dealers than launch a corporate investigation.

“When the gingerbread works, at some point the stick becomes counterproductive,” said Ternan, who serves on Snap’s security board. “I want to prevent death in the future. And we do this through educational awareness and joining forces with social media companies.”

While the latest data on overdose deaths show some encouraging signs, the number of fentanyl pills seized in the U.S. has doubled this year, the DEA said this week. The drug is mostly produced in illegal labs in Mexico, with precursor chemicals purchased in China, authorities said.

For drug traffickers, social media is as important today as phones and beepers were in years past, said Jim Carroll, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who is also an unpaid member of the Security Council, and advises Snap. He said there is no accurate data on how much fentanyl is sold through social media sites, but Snapchat’s huge popularity among young people may also help explain why dealers use the site and why more deaths are linked to the platform, he said.

“You can’t go after a phone company just because it’s a method of communication,” he said. Still, “All these social media companies need to do more.”

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