How Dating Apps are Being Used to Buy and Sell Drugs

Social media apps such as Snapchat have a long history of being used to buy and sell drugs. However, another trend has emerged in recent years: using popular dating apps to push illegal substances.

While dating apps are supposed to be a place to find love, they are no stranger to controversy. According to studies published in Science Direct, there are a number of potential dating app risks, including meeting dangerous people, engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors, or opening the door to cyberstalking.[1]

If you’ve ever used an online dating app, your friends and family probably warned you to be careful by meeting new people in public places or to watch out for red flags. But, not everyone uses dating apps with the intention of finding a partner–others use them solely to find drug dealers, buy drugs, and sell illegal substances.

Florida’s “Swipe Left for Meth” Probe

In January 2022, Florida authorities completed a six-month undercover investigation deemed “Swipe Left for Meth”  in which they charged 68 people in connection with selling illegal narcotics on mobile dating apps like Grindr, Scruff, and Taimi.[2] While these apps primarily target the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to note that this method of selling drugs is used across all popular dating apps, such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge.

The press release regarding the probe explained, “It was clear during the conversations and ensuing undercover drug buys that the suspects’ primary purposes for being on the dating app were to sell drugs — not to find a date.”

Although the sale of drugs and any other illegal activity is strictly prohibited on most dating apps, some dealers are managing to slide right by the community guidelines.

How Do Dealers and Buyers Find Each Other on Dating Apps?

The process of finding a drug dealer on a dating app is actually fairly easy. One of the easiest ways is to look for specific emojis in the person’s bio. Dealers may use the “electrical plug” emoji to indicate that they sell substances or they may use the “flower” or “leaf” emoji to indicate that they have the hookup for marijuana. Some dealers who sell pills will even use the “pill” emoji. Dealers who are selling cocaine may use the “snowflake” emoji while dealers selling crystal meth may use the “diamond” emoji.

Emojis are one of the easiest ways to advertise drug dealing on dating apps but this method is also very obvious because anyone can sign up and swipe through profiles–even law enforcement.

Other giveaways on a person’s profile that may indicate they are selling drugs include using phrases like:

  • “HMU (hit me up) if you like to party”
  • “Got Tina”
  • “PNP” or “party and play”
  • “LMK (let me know) what you need”
  • “Party favors”

Some dealers will get on the apps, create a profile, and swipe on every profile they see, directly messaging people they match with to let them know they have narcotics. They will also look for profiles of people who seem like they are looking for drugs.

Some people go on dating apps trying to find drugs, especially when they have recently moved to a new town or are out of town on vacation and don’t have a local dealer. Upon scrolling through a dating app, you’re bound to see profiles that say something along the lines of, “New in town and looking for some *leaf emoji*”. This means the person is trying to find someone who knows where to buy marijuana or someone who sells it themselves.

The Dangers of Buying Drugs On Dating Apps

Buying illicit drugs is dangerous no matter what, but it is particularly risky to meet up with a stranger and buy something from a complete stranger. First, meeting up with a stranger who knows you are bringing cash could make you susceptible to crime such as robbery or theft. If you are meeting in a secluded place, you could even be the victim of sexual assault or violence.

Even if you manage to purchase the drugs you are buying without being harmed, the drugs may not really be what they seem. Due to a recent concerning wave of accidental fentanyl overdose deaths, authorities have come to the conclusion that there is a lot of illicit fentanyl in the drug supply right now–and it is contaminating counterfeit pills, heroin, opioids, and even marijuana.[3,4] While you may think you are getting Xanax, you could actually be getting fake Xanax laced with fentanyl and experience a potentially fatal overdose.

Staying Safe on Dating Apps

Teens and young adults account for the majority of users on social media platforms, so it’s important for parents to monitor their kids’ online activities and talk to them about how to stay safe when meeting people they met on a dating site. At the same time, parents can also talk to their kids about the dangers of buying drugs and the terrible fentanyl epidemic that the United States is facing.

If you are an adult using a dating app, there are ways you can stay safe when it comes to dealing with people who may be selling drugs.

  • Report and block profiles that you suspect to be selling drugs
  • Don’t respond to people who are advertising drugs or partying
  • Only meet people in public spaces where there are plenty of other people around
  • Don’t accept any substances–even vitamins or drinks–from someone you just met
  • Share your location with a friend or family member

Finding love can be an amazing thing, but staying safe is the most important. Follow these tips and never buy drugs from someone you don’t know to keep yourself safe when using dating apps.



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