Tech has changed so much about the world, including how drugs like fentanyl get trafficked in the US, according to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrator Anne Milgram.
“I think it’s fair to say that technology has transformed our whole world, and it’s transformed drug trafficking,” Milgram told Yahoo Finance at the 2023 Milken Global Conference, adding: “Especially social media — just the fact that within a few clicks on your phone, you can go onto these social media platforms and get a pill delivered to your doorstep. That absolutely has changed how quickly and anonymously this can work.”
One reason for this is that social media has solved a “last mile problem” for cartels, Milgram explained.
“They’ve got to get that drug into someone’s hands,” she said. “It’s that last mile, which is how a drug cartel that’s making fentanyl pills in Mexico gets to a teenager… and social media has made it so much more anonymous.”
“A young person will walk into their room, and open up their phone or computer… but that same young person would be really hesitant to walk into an open-air drug market and buy heroin like they would have had to 20 years ago,” Milgram added. “It’s a totally different world.”
According to the CDC, 107,375 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings between January 2021 and January 2022, and 67% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
When someone dies from a drug poisoning, investigating agents will often, very early on, access their phones and social media accounts.
“Our agents will go out and they’ll access the victim’s phone, and we’ll find the deal on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or TikTok,” Milgram said.
It’s also a cross-platform endeavor, as one transaction can move through many different apps.