In a new study from the University of Texas, researchers found that illegal drug sales on the dark web are common, hard to detect and are fueling America’s opioid epidemic.
The finding shines a light on the sophisticated methods of how the supply of opioids is coming into this country.
Opioids include prescription painkillers (such as oxycodone) and illegal drugs (such as heroin and fentanyl).
Accidental opioid overdoses cause more deaths in the United States than traffic accidents and suicides.
In the study, the team used a programming language to probe the dark web. They found more than 248,000 opioid-related listings on 10 anonymous online marketplaces.
That included just over 28,100 opioid product listings and over 13,500 opioid promotional and review forum traces. These were linked to over 5,100 opioid suppliers’ IDs and nearly 2,800 buyers’ IDs.
Postings included product photos and reviews, as well as for instructions for buying the items. Soon after a product had been posted and sold, the seller and site disappeared.
The team says in order to buy the product, you have to use cryptocurrency, which requires a high level of technology.
When you think of opioids or heroin, you think of drugs being sold on the street, but the current study shows that it is a lot more complex and sophisticated in how they are able to obtain and distribute these products.
People can buy and sell at a much faster rate globally using the web.
The researchers hope their findings will prompt policymakers to take steps to curb dark web sales of opioids.
The study is published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. One author of the study is Tiffany Champagne-Langabeer.
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