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Facebook opioid searches will go to a federal crisis help line

Users looking for opioids will be redirected to information about the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline.

Facebook log in page is seen in a laptop
Facebook is working to fight illicit drug sales on its platform, and is directing users toward help.
Getty Images

Facebook users who are trying to buy opioids or are looking for addiction treatment will be pointed toward information about a federal crisis help line. 

Beginning Wednesday, when people search for help or try to purchase the drugs, they'll be shown content at the top of the search results page asking if they want help finding free and confidential treatment referrals. They'll then be directed to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline.

The social networking company has faced heat for illegal listings for opioids posted on its site. During Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's congressional testimony in April, Rep. David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia, asked him why the listings hadn't been taken down.

The announcement also comes just before the FDA's June 27 "opioid summit," an effort to get tech companies, government entities, researchers and advocacy groups to take steps to combat the opioid crisis "by reducing the availability of illicit opioids online."

Kevin Martin, head of Facebook's operation in Washington, announced the social network's new redirecting feature at an event Tuesday, according to Stat. Facebook reportedly said it worked for months with a policy team that examined how the company could tackle the crisis. It also brought in Avra Siegel, who formerly worked for the Obama administration, to head the opioids policy initiative. 

Facebook reportedly consulted with Facing Addiction, a recovery advocacy group, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration when creating the feature. The same resources will also become available on Instagram in the coming weeks, a Facebook representative said.  

"This is one of a number of ways we are helping connect people with resources and communities to support them," the representative said. 

First published June 19, 1:36 p.m. PT
Update, June 20 at 10:12 a.m.: Adds comment from Facebook.