The dynamic environment of cryptomarkets: the turnover of NPS And vendors selling NPS

First published: 10/05/2019 | Last updated: May 20th, 2019

Background: The Internet has played a major role in the distribution of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), and unstable markets on the hidden web (cryptomarkets) are increasingly used for the anonymous sale of drugs, including NPS. It is unknown how the turnover of NPS and vendors selling NPS on the cryptomarkets affects the availability of substances offered.

Aims: To explore the turnover frequency of NPS and vendors on the cryptomarkets, and consider whether cryptomarkets are a reliable platform for the sale of NPS.

Methodology: Data were collected from 21 cryptomarkets that were accessed through Tor (torproject.org). Data collection took place bimonthly from October 2015 – June 2016 as part of the CASSANDRA project.

Findings: Over nine months, 598 unique vendors were found selling 229 unique NPS. 7% of vendors appeared in all five snapshots, whereas 49% appeared only once. In comparison, 30% of all NPS appeared consistently in all five snapshots and 21% only appeared once. Phenethylamines had the most substances that appeared in all snapshots. Cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids had the most NPS that only appeared once.

Conclusions: Vendors presented a higher turnover than individual NPS. The vendors that had been consistently present throughout the data collection were more likely to use the relatively larger and more stable cryptomarkets than the vendors who only appeared once. The NPS that appeared once were sold by vendors who also appeared once or twice, suggesting that a vendors’ lifespan could be dependent on the popularity/availability of individual NPS.

Co-Authors

Elle Wadsworth (a), & Dr Paolo Deluca (a) on behalf of the Computer Assisted Solutions for Studying the Availability aNd DistRibution of novel psychoActive substances (CASSANDRA) research group (a,b,c). (a) National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK. (b) Institute of Informatics and Telematics at the CNR of Pisa, Italy. (c) School of Health Sciences, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland.


Conflicts of interest:

“The project “”CASSANDRA, (Computer Assisted Solutions for Studying the Availability aNd Distribution of novel psychoActive substances)”” has received funding from the European Union under the ISEC programme – Prevention of and fight against crime [JUST2013/ISEC/DRUGS/AG/6414].”

No conflict of interest

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Elle Wadsworth