ORLANDO, Fla. - A popular social media site has become a convenient way for teenagers to procure illicit drugs, according to police, counselors and a teen who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
[WEB EXTRA: Instagram guidelines ]
"It's just a lot easier. You've got a picture of it right there, you just hit them up," the 17-year-old said.
Instagram, a photo-based social media platform, allows users to maintain a certain degree of anonymity, which appears to attract drug dealers who advertise their goods with full color photos.
Certain hashtags, or search keywords, allow kids to easily find what they are looking for.
"There is some secret language, but for the most part you can hashtag 'marijuana', hashtag 'Xanax', any drug you can think of, you can find that on social media," said Constance Phillips, the admissions manager for Houston's Odyssey House, a Cenikor Foundation drug treatment facility for teenagers.
There are certain steps some teens take to ensure a more anonymous connection.
"The bottom line is this is the way a lot of kids are doing it now," said Cpl. Marco Leal, a deputy constable with Harris County Precinct Six. Leal said he knows that many teens consummate the deals that initiate online on school grounds.
"School, parking lots, convenience stores, those are the places," the teen said.
So what can parents do beyond the standard monitor your kid's online habits and watch who they are hanging out with?
Well, depending on how invasive a parents want to be, it is possible to check Instagram's search history, provided it has not been erased.
Look for the following keywords or hashtags searches: '15g,' 'orlandoweed,' 'orlandodank', ‘orlandotrees' and 'orlandobud' They are currently popular search phrases, but the words change, and so do the social media platforms of choice.
Instagram's policies do state users are not allowed to complete transactions of any kind on their site. The social media site also says sharing prohibited or illegal content could get you banned. Instagram may also contact police. Parents can also report posts you find that are inappropriate.
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