HomeWorld NewsHow TikTok has become a hotbed for drug users who teach kids how to take class As
How TikTok has become a hotbed for drug users who teach kids how to take class As
KIDS are being offered tips on how to take illegal drugs on TikTok.
A Sun Online investigation found hundreds of videos that glorify and glamorise drug taking, and some that teach children how to take class A substances like ketamine and MDMA.
Although TikTok's community guidelines prohibits material promoting drug use, we found videos with millions of views in obvious breach of this rule.
Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in addiction at the University of York, told the Sun Online: "These videos certainly help those that are curious know how to take drugs.
"But there is also a risk that children who accidentally come across these videos may try something they wouldn't have otherwise.
"TikTok can give the impression drugs like ketamine are harmless and fun to use…but most drugs will have a different effect on children compared to adults. For example, children can overdose on a smaller dose of a drug than adults."
TikTok has banned some drug hashtags, including #cocaine, #mdma and #heroin, but ones promoting ketamine, LSD, magic mushrooms and slang terms associated with their use are not blocked on the app.
Searches for drug hashtags #acid, #lsd, #shrooms, #ket, #dmt, #mandy and #pinging have more than 108 million views between them.
One video with almost a million views shows a user showing off a spoon with a "Special K" cereal design – a well-known nickname for the Class B drug ketamine – drawing a sizeable heap of what appears to be the drug towards his face.
Ketamine can put users in a trance like state, and is used for operations on humans and animals. It can cause a loss of feeling in the body and paralysis of the muscles.
TIKTOK TIME BOMB
TikTok has spread like digital wildfire, snapping up over 1.5 billion users since its global launch three years ago — including millions in the UK.
On the surface, the world's fastest growing social media platform shows short clips of lip-syncing to songs or showing off dance moves but there’s a far more sinister side.
It’s become a magnet for paedophiles as well as a hotbed for violent and extremist content, with TikTok predators exploiting the platform's young user base and lax security to prey on the vulnerable.
We've seen kids as young as eight being groomed on TikTok, while other creeps take advantage of young girls posting sexualised content of themselves on the platform.
And that's especially worrying on a site which is attracting millions more children every year, with 53 per cent of kids now owning a smartphone by the age of seven.
That's why we launched our TikTok Time Bomb series — to make sure parents are aware of the risks their kids are being exposed to, and what they can do to better protect them.
We also want TikTok to better moderate its content so that its not being left to kids to protect themselves online.
In other videos, users show the effects of the powerful hallucinations the drug can have when taken in large doses which is known as going into a 'K hole'.
Other videos make comical references to the experiences of the drug – that can give an out-of-body experience – using computer effects.
Some showed users suffering from come downs after taking drugs.
Regular users of ketamine can develop serious bladder problems, and the damage can be so serious, it has to be removed by surgery.
Drug expert Mr Hamilton said: "Any social media that young people are exposed to in relation to drugs like ketamine is problematic as there is unlikely to be any parental or grown up that provide context for the child or monitor what the child does with the information they see.
"There is also a risk that children or young people view drug use as normalised, particularly among their peers, which is not the case as drug use by this age group, particularly ketamine, is exceptional."
Our investigation also found videos that offer advice on how best to take mind-altering drug LSD.
In one video, titled "happy tripping", users are given advice on how best to take acid – which includes tips such as being in a "familiar, low stress and comfortable environment".
In another video, a user tells people on TikTok: "If you're planning on taking acid, make sure you're in a safe place and with a TRIP SITTER too."
Meanwhile one user gloats how he "took acid almost a year ago…and never had a trip, flashback and no after affects".
In the comment sections of videos, people boasted about their experiences trying LSD, also known as acid.
One wrote: "I've done acid like 30 times and nothing has happened lol".
Another said: "I took acid almost a year ago. Never had a trip flashback, no after affects…guess I'm just not a p***y."
Another wrote: "If you do acid properly it can be very healing and life changing."
One user said: "Bruh I've taken it (acid) 7 times in the past 6 months and I'm fine".
LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a Class A drug, possession of which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Those supplying or producing the drug can face a life sentence.
Some acid users experience a nightmarish "bad trip" and the drug can have serious and longer-term implications for somebody with a history of mental health problems.
Others have flashbacks where they relive the hallucinatory experience after the drug has worn off.
Others shared videos of people "pinging" – slang for taking ecstasy – with dilated pupils and tightened jaw muscles.
They showed comparison videos of "what parents think happens at raves" compared to the reality.
One shared a video of them in a bed saying: "My mum going to sleep thinking I'm safe in my bed fast asleep…when I'm in an alleyway 3 caps [pills] deep with people I made friends with on the side of the road."
Another posted a video titled "me: Mum I'm just going pub for a couple of pints" with their pupils dilated at a rave with the hashtag #pinging.
Other users shared the various stages of their magic mushrooms trip.
They included the advice: "Don't trip alone with your friend at 10am after pulling an all nighter."
Some people on the app raised concerns about the ages of some those watching the videos.
One user wrote: "I do find this hilarious but the fact that my sister and her mates are eight/nine years old and love TikTok, I hope they don't come across this stuff."
Mum Katie Mason was "mortified" to find videos relating to drugs on her daughter Violet's phone.
She said: "In ten minutes of scrolling through videos, I saw videos about drugs, sex and violence.
"I saw a video of people pretending to search their room for drugs. You wouldn't expect it from what's meant to be a family friendly app, it's awful.
"Violet wanted it because her friends had it and I'm glad I found out quickly what was on it. I couldn't believe what people were putting on there, it was just vile.
"The app is really inappropriate for young children who are easily influenced by others."
Mum-of-three Lucy Wyatt saw the same photo on her eight-year-old daughter's phone.
She said: "I saw a picture of someone's cabinet draws open stating 'where have my pills gone?' I think it's disgusting and very worrying as loads of young children use the app."
Sun Online launched its TikTok Time Bomb series to make sure parents are aware of the risks their kids are being exposed to, and what they can do to better protect them.
We also want TikTok to better moderate its content so that it's not being left to kids to protect themselves online.
Our campaign is shining a light on the dangerous side of the app and how its lax security and moderation has allowed it to become a magnet for paedophiles, profanity, crime, violence and extremism.
Disturbingly, more than a quarter of parents admit they are clueless such content even exists.
Andy Mason, National Crime Agency deputy drug threat lead, said: "Illegal drugs are a corrosive threat and criminals will use a variety of ways, including social media, to market them. The sale of drugs via online platforms is indiscriminate in reach and can result in supply to young and vulnerable people.
"No matter how they are sold illegal drugs inflict damage on our communities and the NCA works with partners across law enforcement and government to tackle drug trafficking and, ultimately, protect children and young people from the harms they cause.
"Social media and technology companies also need to work to ensure that crime networks are stopped from being able to exploit their sites and platforms for criminal gain."
A spokesman for Hope UK, which helps young people make drug-free choices, said: "Whether it's videos of Ketamine-fuelled parties on TikTok, or the recent report that claimed that it is easier for young people to buy drugs from Snapchat than it is for them to buy sweets, parts of social media and popular culture are falsely glamorising the effects of drugs on young people.
"Young people need to know the facts about drugs and have the skills to do something about it."
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a global social media app that lets users create and share short videos with music and camera effects. It's owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and was originally released in 2016.
The $78billion conglomerate acquired the Musical.ly app in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, bringing millions of new users.
It's one of the world’s most downloaded smartphone apps – with an estimated 1.5billion downloads across the globe, according to data from mobile research firm Sensor Tower.
TikTok particularly attracts younger audiences, with around 41 per cent of its users aged between 16 and 24.
In response, TikTok pointed out the hashtags could have different meanings.
A spokesman for the app told the Sun Online: "We have removed these videos as they breach our guidelines for what is acceptable content on TikTok.
"To ensure TikTok remains a safe place for positive creative expression, we use both technologies and human moderation teams to identify and review problematic content and as in this case, remove it as quickly as possible.
"We are aware that we will not catch every instance of misuse, which is why we encourage anybody – whether they are a TikTok user or not – to use the reporting function to flag any content or accounts they deem inappropriate.
"We're constantly improving and enhancing our protective measures as part of our ongoing commitment to further strengthening our platform safety."
TikTok, which has been downloaded more than a billion times in 150 countries, is labelled on the app store as being for those aged 12 and over. But it's simple for users to lie about their age.
The government plans to create a new online regulator with the power to fine web companies and social media platforms that fail to protect their users, and possibly block them from being accessed in the UK.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Drug dealers are using social media to supply drugs and evade law enforcement, and we expect companies to go further and faster in reducing the risks their platforms pose.
"This includes robust processes in place to swiftly remove illegal content.
"Our Online Harms White Paper sets out plans for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and hold companies to account for tackling a wide range of online harms."
Take control of TikTok – change these settings now
Parents should do the following immediately…
Head into Settings > Privacy and Safety and look for the Discoverability heading at the top.
Under that you'll see a setting called Private Account. Toggle this on.
TikTok recommends your page to lots of other users to improve video circulation.
Switch the setting off and the account will no longer be recommended to other users.
Shut out weirdos:
In Privacy and Safety > Safety, you can prevent other users from interacting with you.
Most of the settings are on Everyone by default, but can be changed to Friends or Off.
You can prevent interactions on comments, Duets, Reacts, users seeing which videos you've liked, and also messages.
Restricted Mode ON:
Restricted Mode tries to limit age-inappropriate content from appearing for children.
It's not perfect, and works through using computer-scanning systems – so some dodgy content will inevitably be missed.
It's also possible to set a passcode to prevent your child from changing this setting later on.
You'll find this in Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Screen Time Management.