New information regarding the darknet drug trade has recently surfaced due to a research study conducted by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The study mainly focused on the purity of the drugs obtained from the infamous darknet market “Silk Road”. One of the largest darknet markets of it’s time prior to being shut down by the FBI in 2013.
The study not only focused on the purity of the drugs purchased on the darknet, but also the alleged safety of purchasing from the darknet as well as the darknet’s overall effect on the global drug trade. The findings reported from the study show that in general, the darknet affords higher purity drugs, safety, and service for the tech savvy darknet shoppers.
The results have been a cause of concern for many involved in the government. Claims that making drugs easy to purchase with nearly complete anonymity increases the potential for abuse and threatens national safety as well as public health.
‘Almost any kind of illegal drug can be bought today on the internet and delivered by mail, with no face-to-face contact between buyer and dealer. The illicit market is evolving, and so should our efforts to eliminate it. We should stop the abuse of the internet by those wanting to turn it into a drug market. Technology is offering fresh opportunities for law enforcement to tackle online drug markets and reduce threats to public health. Let us seize these opportunities to attack the problem head-on and reduce drug supply online’. Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship,
On the other hand, one may argue that the increase in darknet purchasing could be the complete opposite. Every year more incidents involving over doses from drugs tainted with deadly adulterants are reported, could purer drugs be considered better for public health? Gang related crime that is directly tied to the global drug trade also seems to be on the rise, so wouldn’t taking drugs off the streets and cutting violent criminals out of the trade lower crime? But how much purer are these substances discovered on the darknet compared to street dealers? The data used for the report were gathered in 2014, and used over 125 samples acquired directly from various darknet marketplaces that were not named up until 2015. Those samples were then lab tested using gas chromatography to ensure accurate results.
The results from the report showed that over 92% of the time, the drugs purchased from the darknet markets were the exact drug advertised on the sites. Cocaine quality was on average over 70% pure, two to three times higher purity compared to street dealers in the US and UK.
MDMA powder, also known as Molly, results were even more astonishing. 100% of the MDMA purchased from the Darknet contained MDMA and the average purity level was 90%, with some samples testing as high as 100% pure. With new medical research showing that MDMA is not nearly as dangerous as originally assumed, it would seem safer using the darknet than risk acquiring unknown adulterated substances from the streets.
Research conducted for the study also provided insight on how these marketplaces work. Most of these marketplaces, such as the AlphaBay Market, function similar to regular online shopping channels such as eBay. For example, the darknet marketplaces allow shoppers to place feedback after their purchase has been completed where they review the seller based on the quality, safety and overall customer service provided. This is another major benefit in comparison to purchasing from the streets where buyers have no insight on the quality and safety of the product they are to receive. Many advocates of the darknet also claim that the most obvious advantage is the safety of purchasing drugs from their own home, rather than putting themselves in potential danger when purchasing from street dealers. The darknet completely eliminates the possibilities of being robbed, attacked or murdered, which is not uncommon when making offline purchases for illegal drugs.
In the end many can may agree that darknet marketplaces such as AlphaBay Market does provide countless privacy and safety advantages in comparison to purchasing illegal substances from drug dealers on the street. It could also be argued that the existent of the darknet takes business away from organized crime. Overall that would mean lowering violent crimes directly connected to the drug trade, while lowering potential overdose from adulterated substances.