How Teens Are Using Social Media To Buy Drugs

  • Written by:

    Bedrock Recovery Center

Buying Drugs From Social Media

Law enforcement officials and healthcare professionals are sounding the alarm about a growing trend of teens buying drugs, such as counterfeit pills, using social media.

According to federal data, while teen drug use is down, teen overdose deaths are rising at an alarming rate — a trend attributed in part to fentanyl-laced drugs. 

Buying drugs from a drug dealer through social media platforms can be dangerous. It can also be a sign of a mental health problem, substance abuse, or addiction. 

If you’re a concerned parent or other loved one, here’s what you should know about this trend in digital drug sales.

How Are Teens Buying Drugs On Social Media?

According to law enforcement officials, social media applications, like Facebook and Instagram, are generally the starting point for teen drug transactions.

A guide from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) shows young people may use certain emojis, lingo, hashtags, or shorthand to refer to illicit/prescription drugs.

Examples include:

  • Xanax: a pill, candy bar, and bus
  • OxyContin/Percocet: a pill, blue dot, parking sign emoji, and banana
  • heroin: a brown heart and dragon emoji
  • Adderall: a pill, ‘A,’ and train emoji

Code,  or slang terms, are also used to refer to other details about drug purchases, such as drug potency, or the drug batch.

From sites like Facebook, adolescents may move to more clandestine applications (apps), with messages that are deleted after they’re sent — like Snapchat, Wickr, and TikTok.

What Are The Risks Of Buying Drugs On Social Media?

Social media and e-commerce platforms are becoming an increasingly common site of purchase for fake prescription pills, which can be highly dangerous to take.

Many counterfeit pills these days, sold as prescription pills, contain drugs like fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid that’s driving the nation’s overdose crisis, and methamphetamine (meth).

This can be dangerous for a number of reasons:

Teen Overdose

The biggest risk of taking illicit drugs, including prescription pills bought illegally, is accidental fentanyl overdose, due to the proliferation of the drug in the broader illicit drug market. 

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin, on average, and can be deadly in small doses when ingested by people who do not have opioid tolerance.

Fentanyl has been identified in batches of cocaine, counterfeit pills (including drugs sold as Xanax or Adderall), as well as in marjuana, and other illegal drugs. 

Overdose on certain substances, such as heroin or alcohol overdose, can be fatal if left untreated. 

And fatal overdose among teens is on the rise. A recent study published in JAMA found that the number of teens who died from fentanyl more than tripled from 253 in 2019 to 884 in 2021.

Side Effects Of Drugs

Beyond overdose, illicit drugs — including counterfeit pills laced with opioids or meth — can also have mild to severe adverse side effects.

Illicit drugs may affect mood, movement, your ability to make rational decisions, as well as increase your risk of becoming a victim of violence, or getting into a serious accident.

Drug Addiction

Chronic drug abuse can also lead to physical dependence and substance use disorder — a disease that may require professional treatment to overcome.

Getting Help For A Teen Who’s Using Drugs

Buying drugs on social media, or through other secretive measures, can be a sign of a serious substance abuse problem and can pose serious risks to health and well-being.

If you, a friend, or a family member is buying illegal substances on social media, it may be time to consult a professional for a drug abuse assessment.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we understand how difficult it can be to ask for help. But we also know that it’s worth it to get on the path toward an addiction-free future.

Call Today To Learn About Bedrock’s Teen Rehab Programs

Bedrock Recovery Center is a leading addiction and dual diagnosis treatment facility based in Canton, Massachusetts, where we offer evidence-based, holistic treatment for substance use.

For more information about teen drug abuse and our rehab programs for teens, call our helpline to speak with an admissions specialist today.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — SUDORS Dashboard: Fatal Overdose Data

CNN — Substance use among teens dropped significantly in 2021, survey finds

The Denver Channel — How teens are using social media to buy fentanyl-laced drugs

The New York Times — Fentanyl Tainted Pills Cause Drug Fatalities Among Youth to Soar

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — Emoji Drug Code | Decoded