Snapchat taking steps to stop drug deals on its app

The changes come amid a rise in overdose deaths attributed to drugs laced with fentanyl.

Marcos Cabello
Based in Boston, Marcos Cabello has been a personal finance reporter for NextAdvisor and CNET. Marcos has covered cryptocurrency, investing, banking, and the US economy, among other personal finance subjects. If you don't find Marcos behind his computer screen, you'll probably find him behind another screen, playing the newest Nintendo Switch title, streaming the latest TV show or reading a book on his Kindle.
Marcos Cabello

A coalition of family members and groups protested near Snap headquarters in June, calling for more countermeasures to block illegal drug sales on Snapchat.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Snapchat on Thursday said it taking steps to stop illegal drug sales on its platform amid an increase in overdose deaths in the US linked to drugs laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and can be deadly even in small quantities.

"We have heard devastating stories from families impacted by this crisis, including cases where fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills were purchased from drug dealers on Snapchat," the company said in a blog post.

Snapchat said over the past year it's been "investing in proactive detection and collaboration with law enforcement to hold drug dealers accountable for the harm they are causing our community."

The company is also launching a new "Heads Up" feature in Snapchat. Heads Up is an in-app educational portal that will distribute content from expert organizations -- such as Song for Charlie, Shatterproof, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- when people search drug-related keywords on the app, aimed at educating people on mental health and coping mechanisms. 

The issue has been in the spotlight following a report by NBC News earlier this month describing the deaths of teens and young adults who were suspected of buying fentanyl-laced drugs through Snapchat.