Survey: Silk Road Closure Didn't Stop Dark Web Drug Surge

Drug sales on the dark web actually increased after the closure of bitcoin-only marketplace Silk Road, a new survey has shown.

AccessTimeIconJun 8, 2015 at 2:39 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 11:43 a.m. UTC
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Drug sales on the dark web actually increased after the closure of bitcoin-only marketplace Silk Road, a new survey has shown.

Established by addiction specialist Dr Adam Winstock in 2011, the Global Drug Survey is a harm reduction initiative that seeks to provide accurate statistics on substance use worldwide.

Analysing over 100,000 responses from 50 countries, the survey found the number of users buying drugs from dark marketplaces rose by 1.2% in 2014.

The UK led this surge in demand, with 15.1% of British drug users buying from the dark web, a near-3% rise from the year before.

Benefits and risks

Users said they were mainly attracted by the anonymity, reduced violence, better quality and cheaper drugs afforded by sites on the dark web.

Despite the apparent benefits of buying drugs on the dark web, the survey respondents also noted the risks of purchasing online, with data showing that buyers were mainly concerned with losing money and not receiving their orders.

Dark web marketplaces have been known to vanish with people's funds in the past. In March, online drug market Evolution disappeared amid allegations that its administrators had absconded with more than $12m-worth of bitcoin.

 Graph via Global Drug Survey 2015
Graph via Global Drug Survey 2015

The publication of the survey comes after Ross Ulbricht, the convicted founder of drug bazaar Silk Road was sentenced to life in prison on narcotics and computer hacking charges.

During sentencing, US District Judge Katherine Forrest dismissed the notion that the marketplace reduced harm, adding that much drug violence happens "upstream" of users.

"Poppies for heroin come from Mexico or Afghanistan ... when Silk Road expands the market, it is expanding the demand," she added.

A small set of respondents (4%) in the Global Drug Survey said they did not consume drugs prior to accessing them through dark web markets, while 30% said they had consumed a wider range of drugs since using sites on the deep web.

By contrast, 45% of people said their drug consumption had remained unaltered – with MDMA, LSD, cannabis and cocaine still the most popular substances.

Drug image via Shutterstock.


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