Facebook cracks down on Opioids Sold on its Platform

TechCrunch has released an article, “Facebook cracks down on Opioid dealers after years of neglect.” Recent information from the Center for Disease Control, Facebook plays a role in the opioid crisis.  Xanax, OxyContin and other painkillers are often bought online, with dealers promoting themselves on social media including Facebook.




  • Drug dealers were using Facebook (and IG) pages, FB marketplace, and hashtags to sell drugs.
  • Once the CDC released statistics about the number of opioid overdose deaths in 2017, Facebook took action.
  • You can no longer hashtag drugs like heroin or fentanyl thanks to Eileen Carey.
  • If you search to buy drugs you’ll be taken to resources for recovery on the SAMHSA site.
  • It is believed that Facebook contributed to 72,000 deaths last year. That’s about 20% of all opioid deaths last year.


  • DISCUSSION: Do you think with Facebook’s new policies there will be a big impact on the opioid epidemic? Why or why not?
  • DISCUSSION: Is Facebook the problem? Why or why not?
  • DISCUSSION: Do you have any examples of times where you saw something on Facebook that you wanted to report but it didn’t have a policy?
  • DISCUSSION: How do you envision Facebook having the biggest impact on the epidemic?
  • DISCUSSION: Would you consider Facebook to be neglectful? Why or why not?

Statistics on Opioid Overdose Deaths from CDC

Estimated 30,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017

There were roughly 20,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016.


Once the statistics were released, Facebook removed groups, pages, hashtags and marketplace ads that were illuding to selling drugs.

 facebook opioids sold

facebook fentanyl sold page

People are changing their name to appear in the search for fentanyl.



If you try to search to buy drugs on Facebook, it’ll now bring you to resources for addiction. I tested this out and here’s what happens.



Eileen Carey

eileen carey.jpg
PC: diversitybestpractices



Eileen Carey is the hero here as she is the woman that got the policy on opioid sales to change on Instagram in April 2018.

She used Social Media and got the attention of  Facebook VP Guy Rosen.

Read the full article HERE






Mark Zuckerberg

In April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg sat down with caregivers of the opioid crisis and was shocked to hear the news that so many families are struggling with this epidemic.



PC: Congress.gov


He was under hot water when Representative David B. McKinley of West Virginia put the pressure on him to make a change.

“With all due respect, Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity, and in so doing, you are hurting people. Would you agree with that statement?”





This is a great change, and it’s so easy to reflect and say, of course, you shouldn’t be able to create a hashtag promoting the use or selling of illegal drugs. However, I see a problem more about how desperate people are to sell and get drugs in any way possible.

Personally, I am apart of a lot of addiction groups that don’t encourage drug use or sell drugs but offer a safe community for people struggling with addiction to share their experiences and struggles. It’s heart-wrenching to see parents posting photos of drugs and asking the community in desperation if it’s what they think it is. Together the community comforts one another and sends words of encouragement.

With all good things come the bad as well. I don’t think it’s ethically right to blame a social networking problem on being the causation of hurting people. This TechCrunch article seemed to have a tone of blame, which is a dangerous mindset to have when talking about addiction. I would argue that the issue was not neglected for a long time. Hashtags of #heroin or posts about selling drugs are something that unless you’re searching for it or see it close to home, it isn’t top of mind. This isn’t just the case for Facebook, this translates into everyday life. The opioid epidemic effects so many families and we really need to be compassionate to those struggling but also patient with those who don’t understand it.

Another critique of TechCrunch’s article was the number 72,000. Where did the statistic that 72,000 of the opioid overdoses have a correlation with Facebook. If there is an article or a statistical graph that shows what source the overdose came from, I’d be very interested to see it!

Read the full article HERE

Facebook was reactive and not proactive with the removal of drug content and that’s a part of having a product/ecosystem bigger than yourself. The outcome we all agree on is helping those who are struggling and reducing the number of those affected in the future.

What if we saw the solution to ban the selling of drugs and buying them on social networks an issue of out of sight out of mind? Imagine if instead of disabling the ability to search or sell drugs online, we take action on those who participate in the activity. What if the DEA catfished the sellers?

What are some different viewpoints on the issue? Let me know!