Drugs are a huge problem in the United States. The old way of peddling was on the streets, but, with new technology, it’s happening in places many of us are unaware.
It all started with a drug dealer adding me on Instagram. What I noticed on his profile was a series of unique hashtags. One night at home, I became curious and rather than delete him, I started digging.
What I uncovered was an underground world of drug dealing using social media.
Dr. B.J. Davis runs an organization Strategies for Change. Davis is a former dealer and user, and he helps people get on the right track.
“I didn’t sell to underage children, I always sold to my friends,” Davis said. “They were all adults.”
When I told him about the drug dealers of Instagram, he wasn’t shocked.
“It’s about supply and demand. They are out to sell their products anywhere they can,” Davis said. “They don’t think about it being illegal or whose lives they are ruining.”
It’s a concept even mentioned in rap lyrics. In a song called “9 Piece” by rapper Rick Ross featuring Lil Wayne, the lyrics talk about dealing drugs on social media: “I’m smoking dope, I’m on my cell phone/I’m selling dope, straight off the iPhone”
If you are on the inside and know the hashtags; it’s like window shopping as thousands of pictures pop up, dope for sale on the cyber streets.
The dealers use their pictures to advertise their products, and they aren’t hiding it. The dealers show their faces and even tell you where to pick up your illegal buy.
We spoke to a former dealer and user who’s only 18 years old. To protect his identity we are calling him Tyler.
“I can get anything anytime, it’s pretty easy,” said Tyler. “There are always going to be drugs everywhere.”
Tyler’s addiction started when he was still in elementary school.
“I smoked weed when I was 10 years old. I didn’t smoke it every day until I was getting out of middle school.”
Overtime getting high controlled Tyler’s life.
“The next thing was pain pills and then coke.”
It took getting caught by police to turn his life around.
“He saw me throw what I had in my pocket,” Tyler said. “He saw me and it was like three baggies of coke.”
Now in rehab at Another Choice Another Chance in Sacramento, Tyler is on the road to recovery.
PICK YOUR POISON
From Oxytocin to Xanax, even Meth is up for sale on Instagram.
One search and I found thousands of dealers advertising their illegal goods.
While they’re bragging and hashtagging, the criminals are creating an internet trail for detectives to catch them.
“You have to advertise your trade and while you are doing that it helps to build our investigation against them,” said James Crouton, with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Internet Task Force.
“We can narrow down who knows something, we can do some door-knocking and allows us to identify witnesses,” said Crouton.
Using software that can track down tweets even shows where you are sending the tweet from. From there, detectives are able to narrow down your friends and any other criminals you are in cahoots with.