Throughout 2016, researchers began explicitly focusing on darknet-market-related information. In June, The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found that every fourth European used illegal substances. Moreover, the Global Drug Survey 2016 observed that 9.3 percent of participants reported using the darknet to buy drugs. The Trimbos Institute, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, recently published a similar study: Purity, adulteration, and price of drugs purchased online versus offline the Netherlands. Somehow, contrary to common belief, online drugs were proven to be no better than offline ones, in the Netherlands.
As the title suggests, the study focused mainly on the purity of drugs purchased online–both clearnet and darknet–versus those from the street. The organization “conducts research on issues related to mental health and addiction,” the About Us page explains. “The experts at the Trimbos Institute put research findings into practice to support policymakers, educators, and professionals who provide mental health and addiction services.” Compared to the Global Drug Survey (GDS), EMCDDA, and RAND, this organization might be one of the least recognizable to the majority of the world. However, they have a partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and publish several studies every year.
Interestingly, the GDS 2016 noted that respondents used the darknet significantly more often than in the past. “The darknet rising” highlighted the darknet section.
- Globally almost in 1 in 10 participants (9.3%) reported ever buying drugs off the darknet with that reporting last year dark-net purchase increasing from 4.5% to 6.7%.
- MDMA, cannabis, new or novel substances (including 2C-B and DMT) and LSD are the drugs most commonly bought
- 5% of respondents stated that they did not consume drugs before accessing them through darknet markets
Similarly, The Trimbos Institute reported that consumers purchased from online sources more frequently, nearly matching global figures. Consumer online purchases increased from 1.4% in 2013 to 4.1% in 2015. However, in the Netherlands at least, no significant differences between the online drugs and street drugs existed. They studied 32,663 samples provided by consumers between 2013 – 2016. Of those consumer-provided samples, only 928 samples reportedly came from online sources. The study focused primarily on stimulants and “hallucinogens.”
The paper specifically mentioned: MDA, MDMA, MDEA, amphetamine, methamphetamine, mCPP, phenacetin, cocaine, 2C-B, levamisole, GHB, GBL, LSD, 4-FA, 4-MA, lidocaine, procaine, noscapine, 5/6-APB), methoxetamine, and “other pharmacologically active compounds, such as medicines or illicit drugs from the NIST library.”
The MDMA on the streets in the Netherlands, contrary to popular belief, was found to be of a higher purity than the MDMA from the internet. 45% on the street vs. 61% online. Ecstasy tablets from the web showed the opposite results: 131mg vs. 121mg. Of the three major entactogenic compounds studied, 4-FA showed a higher purity (online 59% versus offline 52%) and, of adulterated samples, 4-FA showed the smallest percent of impurities.
A universal standard that the researchers found was that of pricing; the online variants were 10% to 23% more expensive than their offline counterparts.