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Snapchat expands efforts to protect teens from drug deals on its app

The popular app adds new partners to its Heads Up feature and plans to launch more parental tools.

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2 min read
Snapchat's logo on a mobile phone

Snapchat's logo on a mobile phone.

Angela Lang/CNET

Snapchat is ramping up its efforts to combat illicit drug deals on its app. Parent company Snap on Tuesday shared an update about its latest efforts to stop the push of narcotics on the platform with a greater focus on teens. 

Among the changes, Snapchat is updating its Quick Add suggestion feature to reduce interactions between kids and strangers. "In order to be discoverable in Quick Add by someone else, users under 18 will need to have a certain number of friends in common with that person," the company said in a blog post. Previously, the app would recommend possible friends based on mutual connections, regardless of whether you know the person in real life.

Additionally, the company is working on new parental tools that will roll out in the upcoming months, enabling parents to monitor some of their teens' communication habits. 

Last October, the app faced backlash following an NBC News report that examined the deaths of teens and young adults who were suspected of buying fentanyl-laced drugs through Snapchat. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and can be deadly even in small quantities. Synthetic opioids are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Snapchat has also partnered with several nonprofit agencies for its Heads Up portal to deliver anti-drug use resources. Two new additions to the portal include the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and the Truth Initiative, which focuses on preventing nicotine use. 

The social media company also said it has measures in place to identify drug slang and content on the app, and is working with law enforcement to report potential cases and to comply with information requests. Snapchat said that it's committed to help in the fight against the illegal online drug trade.