Birmingham family sues Snapchat after son died from fentanyl-laced pill he bought on app

Snapchat features, such as disappearing messages, makes the social media platform popular among children and young adults for illicit drug deals, the suit alleges

click to enlarge Snapchat has become a popular platform for buyers and sellers of fentanyl. - Shutterstock
Snapchat has become a popular platform for buyers and sellers of fentanyl.

The family of a 19-year-old Birmingham man who died after taking a fentanyl-laced pill that he bought from a dealer on Snapchat is suing the social media company over his death.

Jack McCarthy’s mother found him slumped over dead in their kitchen in September 2021. A police investigation revealed that McCarthy purchased what he believed were Xanax, Adderall, and Oxycodone from a drug dealer on Snapchat.

The Oxycodone was laced with a lethal amount of fentanyl, which is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The lawsuit alleges that Snapchat features, such as disappearing messages, makes the social media platform popular among children and young adults for illicit drug deals.

The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families of McCarthy and either other victims, accused Snapchat of creating a platform that obstructs parental supervision and enables drug dealers to easily locate children and young adults.

Snapchat is popular with drug dealers because the disappearing messages erase evidence of the sale, the lawsuit states. As a result, Snapchat is one of the primary sources of fentanyl, the lawsuit alleges.

“As much as Snap wants us to believe that this is a social media issue, it is in fact a Snapchat issue, caused by Snap’s inherently flawed marketing strategies and product designs which encourage, facilitate and assist online drug dealers with finding minors and young adults,” said Matthew P. Bergman, founding attorney of SMVLC.

“Snapchat has become the ‘new street corner in the shady part of town’ where kids and teenagers know they can go to buy drugs and drug dealers can escape punishment,” Bergman added. “While it is obviously wrong to buy illegal drugs of any kind, these kids didn’t deserve to die for one bad decision.”

Carrie Goldberg, co-counsel of the lawsuit, said Snapchat, which is one of the most popular social media platform among children, facilitates a majority of lethal fentanyl sales.

“This is a case about the Snap Drug Cartel,” Golderg said. “The design of Snapchat, with its disappearing messages and evasion of both parental oversight and law enforcement scrutiny is irresistible to drug dealers. We are all hearing about kids being poisoned from fentanyl-laced pills they buy online. These transactions aren’t happening on the dark web. The vast majority of the cases we’ve seen involve kids buying the lethal pills on Snap.”

In April, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned of an alarming increase in fentanyl deaths. In the 12-month period ending in October 2021, more than 105,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, and 66% of those deaths were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the CDC. More Americans are dying from fentanyl overdoses than gun- and auto-related deaths combined.

“Fentanyl is killing Americans at an unprecedented rate,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in April. “Already this year, numerous mass-overdose deaths have resulted in dozens of overdoses and deaths. Drug traffickers are driving addition, and increasing their profits, by mixing fentanyl with other illicit drugs. Tragically, many overdose victims have no idea they are ingesting deadly fentanyl.”

Metro Times couldn’t immediately reach Snap, the company that operates Snapchat, for comment.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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