The United Kingdom is now among the global leaders in the purchase of drugs on the dark web, a new research has found. The findings also project to a steady growth of the underground online trade.
The study carried out by the Global Drug Survey 2018 targeted drug users in the country and an estimated 25 percent responded. The respondents have bought substances on the dark web and they use cryptocurrency such as bitcoin to make payments and remain anonymous without disclosing their addresses either.
Then, after a successful purchase, the dealers then send the drugs through postal services in a bid to evade the rigorous checks at the ports. The authorities are still working on measures to crack down on the posted drugs.
According to the research, the dark web trade was only more rampant in Finland at 46% and Norway at 30%. The researchers attributed the trend to a number of factors.
The survey’s founder Professor Adam R Weinstock – a psychiatrist consultant- expressed that the habit is popular in jurisdictions whose narcotic related laws are tight. He held that the online shopping culture has also contributed to the growth of the online drug trade.
Speaking to The Independent, Professor Winstock said “We have one of the highest rates of CCTV cameras in the world in Britain and so people want to keep themselves away from prying eyes.”
He added that individuals are finding the ‘best bang for their buck’ on the internet. And, as they do so, they pick the vendor who has favorable quality ratings and the convenience of the trade and shipping of the product. He noted that the online drug trade is growing for the exact same reasons that other online stores such as eBay and Amazon grow.
The study also found out that the most traded drugs on the dark web are Ecstasy, cannabis, LSD as well as unapproved drugs. It noted that the popularity and purchase of legalized highs sharply declined.
According to the professor, the products from the darknet marketplaces tended to be better in quality than those sold by street vendors. This raises fears of overdoses as the actual quality or concentration of a drug is mostly unknown. Winstock added that the accessibility of convenient high quality drugs increases the problem. “But on the flip side, they’re not meeting dodgy street dealers and there is less risk of arrest and criminality,” said the professor.
The report further showed that that the majority of darknet buyers are young people. The median age of the 65,000 respondents was 21. The majority were male and were not likely to be in a formal employment.
Forty-three percent of the respondents said that they first did drugs when they purchased them from the dark web. Others admitted that they were searching out for a wider range of drugs, which means they were trying new intoxicants.
Professor Winstock said that the knowledge required to shop on such websites as well as the need for bank details are enough evidence that such a study could allow minors to engage themselves in drug abuse. However, he attributed the habit to isolation and inadequate guidance.
“People think that if they are getting the best quality drug it’s safer but it’s not, you need to know the purity,” said the Professor.
Apprehension of drug dealers on the web in progress
Vince O’Brien from the National Crime Agency (NCA) said the buyers don’t even know what they take home. He explained that the dark web marketplaces aren’t the same as local stores and eBay. Instead, he says, the dark web has class A, C and illegal weaponry on sale at all times.
While street vendors depend on connections and word of mouth, the dark web drug sellers rely on the feedback, ratings and reviews from customers. About two thirds of the respondents in the survey said that their main reasons for choosing a particular dark site was its positive feedback. Another reason why they preferred a site to another was the ability to ship the drugs to their country and/or address.
International law enforcements have closed down two of the dark web’s most popular marketplaces in recent years, both the Silk Road and AlphaBay were the most popular markets to shop. However, new outlets are popping up and Mr. O’Brien notes that there is evidence of a ‘resilient demand’ for the drugs.
In March 2018, the government gave NCA a whooping £9m in funding to fight cybercrime including the drug deals on the dark web. This followed a series of cases which involved people who had been caught selling substances on the dark web.
In the same month, the court sentenced four former Manchester University students for a total of 56 years for online drag trade. They were suspected of selling drugs but it was not until the FBI’s seizure of Silk Road server’s in 2013 that they were arrested.
Street drug dealing wins
According to O’Brien, only a “very, very small proportion” of sales in the UK come from the darknet as street vendors dominate. He warned that the dark net is not fully anonymous as the authorities are working day and night to seize the users’ details.
The NCA head observed that many buyers easily reveal their personal details to sellers and law enforcement. Also, he said, there have been several cases reported of market places that operate as ‘exit scams’ which disappear after taking their consumers’ payments. Enraged, some of the customers end up alerting the authorities.
Further, the Global Drug Survey 2018 – which interviewed about 130,000 respondents from 44 countries, found out that cocaine can be delivered quicker than a pizza in Glasgow and London.
Impending health problem
Also, it noted that men and women are increasingly using the chemsex drug GHB. Yet, they know little about the contents and purity of the substances they buy. The number of drug consumers in England who seek medical attention is way above the global standards. The increase is due to higher purity of drugs sold in the country.
According to Professor Winstock, it is important to have honest engagement with drug users about the hazards involved.