Tim Bingham || E-mail: info@timbingham.ie || Mob.: +353863893530


The Rise and Challenge of Dark Net Drug Markets



Key Points

  • Recent years have seen a dramatic growth in the sale of a variety of illicit substances on Dark Net drug markets, with on line sales projected to increase exponentially due to expanding internet availability, evolving technologies and the profusion of social media.


  • This new form of retail market poses a major challenge to not only law enforcement agencies but also the UN international drug control system and related legal structures within which these agencies operate.


  • For vendors and purchasers who use the sophisticated, user friendly and increasingly secure Dark Net sites, hidden markets present a safer environment for drug transactions and they reduce the multiple risks (coercion, violence, arrest, exposure to other drugs) associated with ‘street’ sales


  • Research demonstrates that anonymised user forums and online chat rooms encourage and facilitate information sharing about drug purchases and drug effects, representing a novel form of harm reduction for drug users and an entry point for drug support services.


  • Experience to date shows that enforcement efforts through surveillance, hacking and other forms of interdiction may be successful in closing down a particular site, but at the cost of proliferating hidden drug markets and incentivising technological innovation.


  • Given an acknowledged lack of technical capacity, legal constraints and poor international enforcement coordination, Dark Net interdiction efforts should prioritise high-end crimes such as child sexual exploitation, cyber terrorism and weapons trafficking, and work with self-regulating, ‘ethical’ drug sites to enhance understanding of high-level criminality on the Dark Net.


  • The 2016 UN General Assembly Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem is a timely opportunity to discuss reform of the UN drug control treaty system to better deal with the challenges of the increasingly complex illicit drug market in the twenty-first century.



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