How Facebook and other tech giants can help tackle mental health and opioid addiction.

Facebook users that are searching to buy opioids or seeking treatment facilities will now be redirected to a federal crisis helpline. This feature was released earlier this week after months of work by a Facebook team dedicated to helping address the opioid epidemic.

 

Once this new tool is released, users searching on Facebook for treatment facilities or to purchase illicit drugs will receive a message asking if they would like assistance with finding treatment. If they confirm, those users will be directed to a federal crisis help line. Working closely with a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services and alongside the recovery advocacy group Facing Addiction, the Facebook redirect will provide immediate support for those who need it most.

The Food and Drug Administration is urging large tech giants to consider taking additional measures to help curb the drug epidemic. Firms like Facebook, Google and Twitter have been invited to a summit on Opioid use in late June to discuss new ways of using technology to curb the use of opioids in America.

This is not the first we’re seeing of tech giants rolling out tools to become more socially conscious. With Bell using hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to raise awareness and donate money to mental health initiatives (#BellLetsTalk), to Facebook using AI to detect suicidal users and help with suicide prevention, steps are being taken by some of the most influential companies to help with the widespread mental health and addiction issues across the globe.

Facebook’s concerted effort to address the opioid epidemic shows yet another recent attempt by today’s tech giants to get a handle on “digital wellbeing.” Skeptics remain unclear about whether the increased rates of mental illness and addiction can be attributed to more screen time or ameliorated by digital assistants.

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