The latest findings of an annually conducted international poll suggest that illegal drug sales on the Internet’s “dark web” are booming, even in the wake of the arrest and subsequent life sentence handed down to Dread Pirate Roberts (aka Ross Ulbrict), the founder of infamous drug trafficking website Silk Road.
The 2015 Global Drug Survey was administered by addiction psychiatrist Dr. Adam Wintock of King’s College London and questioned 100,000 drug buyers worldwide. According to the International Business Times, among the most startling finds from the survey was that 23 percent of respondents admitted to purchasing drugs online for the first time in 2014, up from 13 percent just one year prior.
Despite the high profile U.S. government shutdown of the pioneering Silk Road drug sales site, there are approximately 25 hidden Internet drug markets currently in operation utilizing bitcoin currency and Tor anonymity software that shields users from network surveillance detection. Among those who no longer buy drugs online, less than 1 percent acknowledged fear of law enforcement as the primary factor in their decision.
The survey also reported that the U.S. had the sixth most online drug purchases globally, with 11.2 percent of American respondents stating they have scored drugs off the dark web and 8 percent doing so in 2014—well after Silk Road was terminated in October 2013.
The three most prevalently purchased drugs on the dark web are MDMA (Ecstasy), LSD and cannabis. Some respondents noted that drugs bought online are often more pure than those acquired in street transactions, as well as being cheaper without the threat of physical violence or arrest. According to those polled, the biggest drawback to buying Internet drugs is being ripped off, such as when the hugely popular dark web drug site Evolution mysteriously vanished in mid-March, taking with it $12 million in customer bitcoins.
Yet—for the time being at least—there will be other dark Internet drug markets to take its place and to serve the ever-increasing demand of online customers.