Dark Web Users Report on Online Drug Buying Experience

By Victoria Kim 06/16/15

A new survey suggests that buying illegal drugs online is safer and less expensive.

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The week before Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life without parole for founding and operating the Silk Road, his defense asked judge Katherine Forrest to consider the website’s role in harm reduction, by offering a more reliable way to purchase unadulterated substances and removing the risks involved in face-to-face street dealing.

The findings of a new survey suggest that Ulbricht’s defense was right. The Global Drug Survey 2015 revealed that in general, the dark web offers lower priced, higher quality drugs, and a safer experience away from the “streets and dark alley ways” of traditional drug deals.

Patrons of the dark web reported fewer issues with buying online than on the street. However, the dark web has its share of risks as well. In addition to more reasonable prices, reduced exposure to violence and more confidence in the quality of the product, users reported a higher rate of losing money due to market seizure, scam, theft, and volatile currency markets.

Dr. Adam Winstock, who led the survey, was curious about people’s behavior and motivation for purchasing drugs online. “How does access to really good drugs—away from street criminals—change people’s drug behaviors? That’s one of the things we’re trying to find out,” he said. “Shopping on Amazon completely changed my life—being able to buy all these things for such little money. I wonder how these online markets will change drug consumption.”

Interestingly, about 30% of dark web users reported they consumed a greater variety of drugs than they did before having access to them on the dark web. Sweden, Poland, and Norway were the top three drug consumers—the U.S. came in seventh—and MDMA, LSD, and hydroponic cannabis were the top most purchased drugs on the dark web.

Overall, Dr. Winstock, who has been tracking the dark web since 2012, says it “might be unwise to dismiss the rise of dark net markets (DNMs) as a totally bad thing” since it seems that DNMs are here to stay. “And given the profit, passion and persuasive associations shared by drugs and entrepreneurship, we might as well get on board to see how we might utilize a globalized, monitored and monetized market to the benefit of society,” he said.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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