A new report reveals that drugs purchased from the darknet markets like Silk Road may be of higher purity than those bought from street dealers. In Chapter 6 of the report titled “The Internet and Drug Markets” under section “Quality and Harm Reduction,” it is noted that the quality of the drugs purchased from darknet markets tended to be higher.
According to an FBI statement released in 2013, samples of drugs purchased from Silk Road have typically shown higher purity levels as advertised in the site when subjected to laboratory testing. On the other hand, many of the drug users who had purchased ecstasy from street dealers earlier on have found that the pills contained inferior PMA (para-Methoxyamphetamine) or piperazines instead of MDMA. Similarly, those who bought LSD found out that they were ingesting 25i, a toxicity which is not usually found in LSD. Users reported few, if at all any, substitutions when they purchased drugs from Silk Road.
The report pointed out that in the case of 120 samples out of 129 online drug purchases (93 per cent), only psychoactive substances were detected. The mean purity level of cocaine samples was slightly more than 70 percent compared to the average purity level of 38 percent found in street samples that were seized in 2013 in the UK.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction or the EMCDDA report states that users of the darknet markets such as Silk Road felt they were getting value for the money they spent. The report also noted that the customer feedback model that worked well on sites e-commerce sites such as eBay was also effective in the case of online black markets. While sellers who offered products as described enjoyed repeat purchases, regular users of online black markets were sophisticated enough to spot faked or padded feedback.
Darknet Markets Change Online Drug Trade
According to the report, darknet markets like the Silk Road have been instrumental in significantly changing the way in which drugs are traded. While relationships between consumers and vendors are driven by trust and professionalism, user feedback systems and resolution models employed by them provide the necessary support.
The report also noted that darknet markets are also instrumental in reducing harm as their structure allows for the creation of virtual communities for sharing knowledge, information and experiences. Forums that are linked to these cryptomarkets provide user advice, product as well as transaction reviews and “trip reports.”
Posts in forums, feedback from users and control exercised by site administrators enable users to remain well informed as regards the quality of the products offered on sites like the Silk Road. Many vendors even state in these forums that their products have been subjected to lab tests and offer information as regards the purity.
While users can also leave their opinions as regards the quality of the products they purchased and the experiences they had with vendors, many vendors frequently communicate directly with the users and announce the availability of a new batch of a specific substance, provide advice on safe use, openly discuss quality – purity and adulterants. This system may be considered to be imperfect, but it does offer more reliable information to users than that which the traditional street drug dealers provide. Therefore, darknet markets like the Silk Road often provide some advantages as far as both sellers and buyers are concerned when compared with the street drug distribution system.
The report also provides an analysis of approximately 12,000 transactions carried on Silk Road and notes that wholesale level activity (transactions that are worth over $1,000) contributed to the generation of about 25 percent of the total revenue. Though such transactions provided evidence that a significant number of the Silk Road customers were drug dealers who were sourcing stock for their clients, the report noted that online drug sales is unlikely to be an alternative to traditional street dealings.
Additionally, the report points out that online drug sales represents only a tiny portion of the total global drug trade, but says that the cryptomarkets have the capacity to cut down the harm caused by traditional drug markets in some ways. This, potentially, boils down to the very fact that the quality of drugs obtained from online black markets like Silk Road might be better compared to those purchased from street dealers, which are often contaminated with harmful substances.