The number of listings for illegal drugs on the darknet has more than doubled in under a year
Good news for all online drug dealers - business is booming. According to the BBC, there are now over 43,000 listings for illegal drugs online, compared with just 18,000 in October 2013. That's a whopping increase, particularly for an illegal counterculture that the FBI are working hard to shut down. In 2013, they managed to shut down Silk Road, the "poster boy" for online drugs markets, but since then, more and more drug dealing sites have emerged. There's even a search engine that you can use specifically to hunt down black market goods.
Last year there were only four main markets, compared to 23 today, including respected vendors such as Agora, Pandora, Hydra and Outlaw. Increasingly, customers are turning away from the perils and hassle of buying drugs on the streets in favour of receiving higher quality product through the post.
Speaking to the BBC, one happy customer said: "I don't have to reveal my identity at all, it's completely anonymous, no-one's going to find out who I am, I just feel safe using it." Users must use the Tor network to access online marketplaces and pay for goods using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, making their transactions untraceable, anonymous and free of the stress of having to meet some weird guy in a car.
Experts agree that using the internet to buy drugs seems like a natural step. Adam Winstock of the Global Drugs Survey told the Guardian: “The growth of purchasing psychoactive drugs online in recent years reflects the growth of ecommerce more generally. Convenience, product choice, price and user ratings make buying drugs online attractive to some users.”
But Britain's National Crime Agency are vowing to do everything in their power to halt the growth in trading. "We will use all and every tool and technique we possibly can," said Caroline Young. "Whether they are dealers and buyers online or on the street – they are exactly the same. They are dealing in illegal drugs and they are dealing in misery."