Party & Play: Drugs, sex easily accessed by smartphone apps

The ABC-7 I-Team uncovers easy access to drugs and sex on smartphone apps like Grindr.
November 12, 2013 5:51:18 AM PST
The ABC7 I-Team investigates easy access to drugs and sex on your smartphone. These apps show you exactly how close you are to others who want to meet up. Drug users have come up with code words to make it known they are looking for more than a date.

Those who use these new phone apps say it's easy access: create a profile, check out who is close by and quickly find whatever you are looking for. For some, the mix is crystal meth and sex. Experts tell the I-Team one community is especially suffering from this dangerous combination.

"Once I took that first hit, it was like I was in love, like I would do anything for this drug," said Justino Garcia, former meth user.

Justino Garcia started using crystal meth more than 10 years ago.

"That's where my addiction took me, to the dark alleys and the bath houses," said Garcia.

Then Garcia discovered the smartphone app Grindr.

"Grindr is an app for gay men who are looking for casual encounters," said Garcia.

Garcia used it for more than that-- sharing a secret code created by drug users to find others looking to get high and hook-up.

"When you're using, you kind of have this lingo, it's called PNP and you just ask the other person if they PNP, which is party and play," said Garcia.

This GPS feature on Grindr and other similar apps shows who is just a few feet away.

"With smart phones it's become very easy. They're able to do their hook ups and find their dealers through apps," said Jeff Zacharias, New Hope Recovery Center.

Jeff Zacharias is president and clinical director at New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago.

"North Side of Chicago tends to be where the meth problem is centered with gay males," said Zacharias.

"Apps are like crack for the people I work with. It's simply the ease of being able to not only find what you're looking for, but to geographically find it," said Robert Weiss, Element Behavioral Health.

Robert Weiss is nationally known for his work on sex and technology addiction. He says these "friend finder" apps can be trouble for anyone.

"I see a lot of heterosexuals hooking up for drugs or prostitutes on Ashley Madison or some of the sexual hook up apps," said Weiss.

Law enforcement says drug use aided by technology is tough for investigators to bust.

"Criminals are now beginning to hide in cyberspace more now than ever, and our ability to stay with them is difficult. It's a concern for us and my fear is it's going to get worse," said Jack Riley, DEA Chicago.

Experts say technology is not to blame.

"The problem is not the technology, the problem is the person using it," said Weiss.

Garcia agrees and says the lifestyle he chose wrecked his health.

"I lost my health. Currently I have HIV," said Garcia.

Sober now for 3 years, Garcia replaced technology that tempted him to start using meth again with apps that aid his recovery.

"I do some meditation readings . . . that help me get through the day," said Garcia. "My future is very prosperous, there's hope."

Grindr turned down the I-Team's request for an interview.

Before downloading these apps, you have to agree to the company's terms of service, which make it clear the app is not to be used for anything illegal. People are encouraged to report abuse of the app.

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