Top Justice Department official calls on social media companies to do more as teens die of fentanyl

Landen Hausman, a sophomore in high school, died in January after buying Percocet containing fentanyl through a social media dealer. His family found him collapsed on the bathroom floor and tried to revive him with CPR, but it was too late.

“Sometimes with fentanyl you don’t get a second chance,” her father Marc Hausman told CBS News.

Hausman said his son probably didn’t recognize that the counterfeit Percocet could be mixed with fentanyl.

“He basically bought two of these counterfeit Percocet pills,” Hausman said. “He took one. One killed him. We found the other [in his bedroom].”

Unfortunately, Landen’s story is all too common. Last year, more than 100,000 Americans died from fentanyl, more deaths than Americans killed in the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Teen deaths have more than tripled since 2019.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said it is investigating more than 120 cases involving social media. The agency has issued a warning about the emoji code language used by dealerships to target younger shoppers.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who oversees the DEA, says fentanyl is the agency’s top priority.

“We don’t talk about meeting on the street anymore and making that connection,” Monaco told CBS News. “The dealer is in your kid’s pocket with the phone.”

Monaco said many of those dying “are unsuspecting users thinking they’re getting one thing and they’re getting something else in the form of fentanyl.”

“So it’s really not an overdose,” she said. “It’s poisoning.”

Monaco also said the justice ministry is pushing social media companies to crack down on dealers, calling the crisis a “national security issue”, “a public safety issue” and a “public health issue”.

“We’re asking them to do more,” she said. “They need to do more. They need to monitor their platforms. … They need to use, quite frankly, the same tools and the same technology that allows them to exquisitely deliver these ads for all kinds of things that we buy online. and identify these drug dealers and bring them down.”

The dealer who sold the fake Percocet to Landen faces federal charges, but for Hausman, one arrest isn’t enough.

“I don’t know who this dealer is. I really don’t care,” he said. “So for me, justice is that I can’t go back and change what happened. But what I can do is try to do everything I can so that maybe it doesn’t happen. not to anyone else.”

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