Years ago when a teenager wanted to score drugs they didn’t have look far, it was to their friends (negative peer group), classmates in school, at parties or even from our home medicine cabinet. Fast forward today and you’ll find young people are now getting drugs online, perhaps now more than ever.
Good teens, bad choices
Some recent cases were the following:
- Two Utah 8th graders overdosed and died after taking U-47700, a potent synthetic opioid also known as “pink,” they got from other teens who bought it online.
- A Minnesota teen overdosed and died after taking the synthetic psychedelic drug DPT (dipropyltryptamine) he bought online.
- The 16-year old son of famous television therapist Dr. Laura Berman died after overdosing on fentanyl. Berman believes her son bought the drug from a dealer on Snapchat.
According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) one of the top reasons young people turn to drug use is to fit in with their peers. It may start by only smoking marijuana or they feel like they need to drink to have a good time with others at a party — but this peer pressure can have a major impact on their actions. This is crucial to understand because it’s where you can start with your prevention, by preparing your teen to handle peer pressure in a healthy manner.
Signs Your Teen Could Be Buying Drugs Online:
Is your teen acting unreasonably anxious or aggressive when you try to monitor their social media use, search their history, or receive their packages? If your teen is acting suspicious regarding his or her online behaviors, there are additional signs to watch for that may indicate your teen is buying drugs online.
Here are more red flags to be aware of:
- Spending an increased amount of time online or on their phone in privacy
- Lying about the time spent online or on their phone
- Creating multiple accounts on the same platform, making secret accounts, or making accounts under an alias
- Increased spending habits
- Using encrypted messaging apps that are password locked like Signal or Telegram
- Receiving mysterious packages at strange hours
- Hiding or deleting browsing history
- Other signs of drug use like mood swings and behavior changes
5 Ways to Protect and Prevent the from Buying Drugs Online:
1. Keep the communication lines open. Make sure to always have an open line of communication with your young loved ones. Let them keep you in the know about their friends, what’s happening in their school, their interests, and more. Being close to him or her also helps you to notice changes in behavior that could point to drug use.
2. Make sure they know the consequences. Because the drugs can be so readily available online, kids may believe that they aren’t really that dangerous. But many times, dealers will lace pills with other substances (like fentanyl) that will increase the drug’s potency and make its consumption even more dangerous. In addition to possible overdose, using and buying drugs can lead to other consequences. There have been cases where someone has been sentenced to prison for giving a pill to someone who later overdosed.
3. Check out their “searches” (if you suspect drug use). Look through their browser or Google searches (on their computer or cell phones). Keep an eye out for any “How to buy ____ online” -type searches. Bring up anything that causes strong suspicion. This may be an uncomfortable conversation and you may also be accused of spying (which you are technically doing). But be sure to let him or her know that you are worried and only want to keep them safe. Make sure you point out recent cases in the news about young people overdosing on drugs.
4. Monitor their delivered packages (if you suspect drug use). Drugs are often delivered in unmarked and discreet packages. If you find your loved one getting such mail, or packages that you don’t expect, ask them about it. You may want to stick around when they are opening the package.
5. Using parental control features can help you block inappropriate content or influencers. It may also be time to install an outside service for parental controls.
6. Medicine cabinet check-up. Teens sometimes will leave their drugs accidentally in the most obvious places. Don’t hesitate to go through their medicine cabinet or bedroom especially if you suspect they are using substances.
With drugs being more accessible than ever, the most important things you can do are to educate yourself on the potential danger while maintaining a good relationship with your teen.