Supporting Communities in the Face of the Opioid Epidemic


APR 5, 2024

The opioid epidemic, especially the increase in fentanyl use, is impacting families across the US and around the world and has become a major public health issue that requires a whole-of-society approach. From governments to health systems and law enforcement to technology companies, we all need to do our part to tackle this ongoing challenge.

Across our platforms, people come together through products like Facebook Groups and Instagram hashtags to provide vital support — whether it’s communities for people who are helping a loved one recover, health professionals sharing treatment information, or organizations combating the stigma that prevents many from seeking help.

Meta’s work to address the harms of illicit drugs is focused on partnering with organizations to increase awareness and education and combating drug trafficking online.

Working with Experts to Increase Awareness

Increasing awareness and education are two important ways to combat the dangers of drug misuse. We continue to support organizations working in this space to help educate the public about the potential harm of misusing drugs, reduce stigma and provide resources related to recovery. Recent examples include:

  • Song For Charlie is a family-run, national nonprofit charity dedicated to raising awareness about counterfeit prescription pills. We’ve partnered with Song For Charlie to expand their reach on a new online fentanyl information and resource hub for parents and families in California, a campaign created with funding and support from the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).

  • The Ad Council is continuing to raise awareness of the prevalence and dangers of fentanyl through their campaign Drop the F-Bomb. We partnered with the Ad Council on the creative development of this campaign, which provides parents with resources like Fentanyl 101 facts and guides on how parents can educate their families on the dangers of fentanyl. According to the Ad Council, the campaign reached nearly 8 million parents on our platforms in 2023. We also supported the Ad Council and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on a campaign, “Real Deal on Fentanyl”, to raise awareness of the life-saving effects of Naloxone during an overdose. Thanks to Meta’s support, the campaign saw 27 million impressions and reached 1.6 million individuals over the age of 18.

  • Mobilize Recoveryis an organization that brings local leaders together to organize community engagement for people in recovery, family members, and recovery allies. In 2023, Meta co-hosted Mobilize Recovery DC: a summit that brought together more than 600 individuals in recovery from addiction, families, advocates and policymakers from across the country to fight the opioid crisis, end overdoses and support recovery. We’ll continue this partnership in 2024.

  • We are a member of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies and continue to support them on DEA Prescription Drug Takeback Day by helping people find the closest drop-off locations.

  • We’ve partnered with Partnership to End Addiction, a leading nonprofit working to transform how the nation addresses addiction, on campaigns to help connect parents, guardians and young people with educational resources on prevention and recovery. According to the Partnership to End Addiction, in H2 2023 alone, our campaign reached more than 10 million people with recovery resources in both English and Spanish across our platforms. It also drove 35,000 people to their Risk Assessment tools, which help family members identify risk factors specific to their loved ones and provide personalized guidance on how to address these risks.

  • In 2023, we partnered with UK drug, alcohol and mental health charity, With You, and creator Chunkz to raise awareness on how to report drugs and drug sales content on Instagram and how young people can get support if they’re struggling with drug-related issues.

Using Technology to Make Finding Help Easier and Removing Bad Content Faster

We also understand how vital it is to give people – especially anyone personally impacted by this issue — safe spaces where they can feel free to discuss the dangers of drugs and strategies for overcoming addiction. That’s why we allow people to talk about their recovery or that of a loved one to raise awareness, provide education, and connect to resources that can help.

We want to make vital resources for treatment easier to find. When people search for information about opioids on Facebook and Instagram, we direct them to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline and other resources for free and confidential treatment and education. Teaming up with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, we’ve made their helpline accessible on Messenger, helping them to connect with more than one thousand families in need this year.

Fighting drug trafficking online is bigger than any single platform. That’s why we actively collaborate with other technology companies to share information and prevent bad actors from doing harm online. For example, we’re working with Snap to identify patterns and signs of illicit drug-related content and activity. Through this program, we’ve identified novel ways to detect illicit drug content at-scale on our platform, and routinely share these signals back with Snap so we can independently evaluate and remove violating drug content across platforms. This work strengthens our ability to find and remove this kind of content from our platforms. As the program develops, we hope to engage additional companies as we work together to protect people and tackle this industry-wide issue.

We’re also working together with the US Government, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and other technology companies, like Snap, to establish the Alliance to Prevent Drug Harms, a cross-industry coalition to prevent the abuse of digital platforms for illicit or harmful activities related to the non-medical use of synthetic drugs, like fentanyl. The Alliance will focus on collaborating to disrupt this activity online and amplifying public awareness of the dangers and health risks of synthetic drug misuse.

In addition to working with other tech companies, we’ve built technology to find and remove harmful content and bad actors from our platforms, including:

  • Detecting and Removing Illicit Drug Related Content: We prohibit content, including in ads and organic content and on commerce solutions, that promotes the buying and selling of illicit drugs and remove it whenever we find it. Criminal organizations are also not allowed to use Facebook and Instagram, and we remove these organizations from our platforms when we identify them. Our technology is able to detect content that includes images of drugs and we look for depictions associated with the potential intent to sell. By using technology to catch this type of content it allows our team to use their expertise to instead investigate accounts, Pages, Groups, emojis and hashtags, as well as work with experts to spot the next trends.

    We block and filter hundreds of terms associated with illicit drug sales. People mostly find this content by searching for it. When people search Facebook and Instagram for drug-related hashtags and search terms we have identified—including information on opioids—we surface a pop-up interstitial that directs them to SAMHSA’s National Helpline and other resources for free and confidential treatment and education.

    We will continue to take action against anyone who uses our platforms in an attempt to organize the sale of illegal drugs. We’re continually improving our methods for detecting and removing content that violates our policies before people may see or report it.

  • Working with Law Enforcement: We routinely respond to legal requests and work closely with law enforcement and emergency responders to help keep people safe on our platforms. We proactively cooperate with law enforcement authorities to help combat the sale and distribution of illicit drugs. When we identify a credible threat, we reach out to law enforcement in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law.

  • Updating our Policies: We’ve updated our Restricted Goods and Services policy in our Community Standards to better explain our long-standing prohibition of the sale or purchase of dangerous non-medical drugs on our platforms. The definition of non-medical drugs now includes precursor chemicals, including those that could potentially help manufacture dangerous drugs like fentanyl. We’ve also added a new section to this policy to address the sale of high risk drugs, starting with fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin. One violation of this type will result in the disabling of an account. On the ads side, we require certification for addiction treatment services that want to advertise on our platforms.

Our Commitment

We will continue investing in technology to keep illicit drug sales off our platforms, raising awareness and increasing education to combat the dangers of drug misuse and to connect people with help and resources. Above all, we know this challenge is bigger than any single platform or industry. That’s why we have and will continue to collaborate with others – including governments, organizations, health experts, researchers and our peers at other tech companies – to tackle these issues. When we work together, it strengthens our ability to respond to this crisis.