The National Crime Prevention Council has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland for an investigation into Snapchat, reports the Associated Press. The group is concerned about the sale of fake pills laced with fentanyl on Snapchat, a popular social media platform among teens. “Drug dealers are using American innovation to sell lethal products,” wrote the council's Paul DelPonte. “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 spiked 109 percent between 2019 and 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of those deaths involved fentanyl. Snapchat’s parent company said it has taken significant steps to improve safety on the platform. It’s also backing a bill to bolster drug-activity reporting by social media companies. Still, Snapchat is the most common platform grieving families mention when they reach out to his group for help, DelPonte said. Those parents included Amy Neville, whose son Alex was 14 when he bought a pill that he thought was Oxycontin through the platform in June 2020. One day, he got his hair cut, went to lunch with his dad and hung out with friends. After he returned home in Orange County, Ca., he went to his room and took the pill that ended his life.
Neville is also part of a lawsuit in California against the company. The lawsuit names several teens and young adults around the U.S. who have died after accidental overdoses. It was filed by the Social Media Victims Law Center, which is representing 28 families whose children have bought counterfeit pills through Snapchat. The Drug Enforcement Administration has called fentanyl “the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” and administrator Anne Milgram has said social media apps are the “perfect drug delivery tool." She also named platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. While the latest overdose death data has some encouraging signs, the number of fentanyl-laced pills seized in the U.S. doubled this year, the DEA said this week. The drug is largely produced in Mexico's illicit labs, with precursor chemicals bought from China.