SAN DIEGO – Relatives of more than 60 people who died of fentanyl overdoses across the nation are suing the parent company of the social media app Snapchat, arguing the app is a gateway to trade illegal drugs.

A massive 205-page lawsuit is out against Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc., alleging the algorithm the app uses links children to drug dealers. Jamie Puerta is just one of the 60 defendants nationwide listed; his son Daniel died by fentanyl poisoning in 2020; he says the messaging app played a key role.

“He went on Snapchat, bought what he thought was a pharmaceutical grade oxycodone pill but what he really received was a cloned pill made of fentanyl…and it took his life,” Puerta said.

“It’s like ordering pizza that’s basically what it is, instead of ordering a pizza you’re ordering a pill and the problem is these children don’t know these pills are fake.” 

Jaime Puerta, President of Victims of Illicit Drugs

The lawsuit alleges Snapchat is an open-air drug market, inviting nefarious dealers who take advantage of the disappearing messaging features. It also claims the app lacks a proper parent monitoring system.

Nathan Smiddy or Narcan Nate was a former drug dealer turned drug prevention advocate in San Diego. He now sheds light to the dangers here at home, drawing from his past experience.

“They’re going out and they’re getting something that they think is oxycodone, or Xanax, but it has fentanyl in it. I even remember doing that in high school, but the pills that we had were regulated,” Smiddy said.

In San Diego County alone, there has been a nearly 900% increase in unintentional fentanyl deaths as of last year, meaning users were unaware they were taking the drug. This was the case for Puerta’s 16-year-old son Daniel.

“I don’t condone my son going on to Snapchat and wanting to buy a drug, but he certainly did not deserve to die from it,” Puerta said.

Snapchat did respond to the allegations calling them false. It also released preventative measures on their website including a public awareness campaign on the dangers of Fentanyl saying in part, “…as a platform many young people use to communicate with their friends…we are committed to helping protect our community…by informing Snapchatters about the deadly reality of fentanyl laced pills.”

For further fentanyl and other drug related prevention and awareness amongst kids, teens, and young adults, you can find help here.

“As kids we’re supposed to learn from our mistakes, we’re not supposed to die from them.” 

Jaime Puerta, President of Victims of Illicit Drugs