Recent research by Royal Holloway suggests social media apps are increasingly likely to be used by young people to buy illegal drugs - Why do people use apps to source drugs? Is drug use an issue that students should be concerned about? Should the university do more to help combat the sale of drugs in Newcastle?
Royal Holloway's recent results saw a staggering increase in the purchase of drugs over social media apps. Across 350 participants they found that 76% frequently used Snapchat for buying drugs, while 21% also used Instagram. With over three quarters of the participants using a social media app to buy their drugs for use, there is clearly an increase in the economic infrastructure of buying and selling drugs, expanding its walls in the virtual world.
If we take the dark web into consideration, and actually as an established platform for buying and selling drugs, it has been in use for over twenty years. So, is social media just the glorified 21st century version of this, in terms of this drug market?
The dark web does require a certain amount of specialist knowledge on advanced technologies, so drugs can be hard to acquire. However, apps like snapchat are being used by children as young as 11 years old.
A study by Ofcom revealed that half of children as young as 11 and 12 possess some kind of social media account, even though the legal required minimum age of Snapchat and Instagram is 13. This is also the case for most other social media platforms. Technically they are then able to access drugs, which ‘concerning’ would be a vast understatement.
You are not just able to buy drugs on Instagram and Snapchat, but also Facebook and WhatsApp are utilised as virtual marketplaces for quick and easy buying and selling of drugs, on a commercial scale. There are adverts and accounts where are a simple message to the seller will allow you to buy drugs.
We have to then question why are people, specifically students, doing this? There is a simple answer…it is convenient, quick and easy. People also class it as a ‘secure’ way to buy drugs, as they already have these apps on their phone, especially when apps like WhatsApp are encrypted.
According to the National Union of Students 2 out of 5 students are drug users. So, out of every 100 students at Newcastle University, that is 40 of them who would be drug users, and that is without counting those who have only tried it out before. The most common drugs used are cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and nitrous oxide.
Surely for students this is quite alarming? But, there is a common perception that students have an ignorant attitude to life, as we are ‘young’ and ‘naïve’. So, is it they case that
students view themselves as indestructible, are therefore unconscious to the possible repercussions of drug use.
If this is the perception of students, I think it therefore becomes necessary that the university must intervene somehow. Instead of being blind to the issue, Newcastle and other universities must firstly bring about some conversation around the topic of buying and selling drugs, in a way engages and relates to students. This could then lead a necessary path to action in reducing drug sales amongst the student body, by ensuring that students are at the epicentre of a process to combat selling drugs.