If you are one of the few people out there who does not know a heroin addict and for some reason you want to, try social media.
I know a lot of addicts. I am in recovery. I am also a journalist and I have spent the last 18 months investigating the opioid epidemic and corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry. What have I learned?
Facebook is where newly clean addicts proclaim their love of sobriety. They quote passages from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. They talk about how many days they have and what step they are on.
They talk a lot about gratitude. You often get the impression that their posts are less then genuine – like they know Mom and Dad have Facebook accounts and will see how great they are doing!
When an addict overdoses and dies, their Facebook page becomes a memorial where friends post condolences, memories, stories and photos.
One recovered addict created an anonymous account named after AA co-founder Dr. Bob Smith. He uses the page to expose operators of sober homes whom he claims use shady business practices, such as kickbacks and insurance fraud.
He targets marketers, too, who are known to troll 12-Step meetings for newcomers. Marketers get paid a bounty for each addict they can lure to a sober home. The amount depends on the type of insurance the addict has.
Bob Smith’s posts were so vicious that Facebook pulled his page and put him in time-out several times. Bob Smith finally created a blog. Now he uses his Facebook account to advertise new posts to his blog.
Tumblr, the microblogging site, is much, much darker. This is where addicts deep into their disease post bizarre videos of themselves shooting heroin. Some carefully arrange their stash of drugs – Xanac bars artfully lined up beside a pile of Oxy 80s. A velvet lined box containing antique syringes. Crystal stalactites of meth in a wooden bowl. Lines of coke.
Then there is Reddit – where Walter White would hang if he actually used the meth he made. A quick search and you can find sub-reddits where addicts discuss recipes for drug cocktails. How to mix the drugs and what to expect from the high. Sometimes they chronicle the whole experience, from mixing the ingredients to the actual high – like it’s their project for the science fair.
Where do addicts trying to get clean find places to live? Craigslist. Not only can you find a sober home within walking distance of the beach, but if you have good insurance, they may not charge you rent! (That’s illegal, according to local law enforcement.)
Why does any of this matter? Because people making drug policy and enforcing drug laws don’t do social media well – if at all. If you want to talk to addicts about naloxone or needle exchanges, you have to go to where they are: social media.
If you want to alert them about a bad batch of dope on the street, post on social media. Find influencers – like Bob Smith – and use them to reach their followers.
In the county where I live officials have created a heroin task force and a sober home task force. Neither has any social media accounts. One city has its own drug task force. It has a Facebook page but one one has posted on it for a month. As for Twitter, that’s for grown-ups. Addicts don’t use Twitter.
If I was an undercover narcotics officer or detective in search of leads, I would go to social media. You wouldn’t believe the stupid stuff drug dealers post – especially photos. And speaking of photos…did you know you can do a Google search on photos? So, all you cops out there looking for missing addicts – upload their photo and let Google find them on social media.
If we want to reach and find drug addicts, we have to meet them where they are: social media.]