Monica Barratt and Judith Aldridge are the two proficient researchers who are responsible for the insightful publication on darknet markets.
Academically termed “cryptomarkets,” these anonymous online markets give access to buyers looking to purchase illegal merchandise which is primarily drugs and weapons.
The publication covers most of the information that outsiders are secretly curious about. The following is what the publication entails.
The two researchers first stumbled upon Silk Road back in 2011. At the time, they lived in different parts of the world.
Nevertheless, their reaction to the underground online market – one which they aptly summed up as an illegal version of Amazon or eBay – was similar.
Silk Road was what spawned their interest in cryptomarkets and spurred them to create a detailed publication that would educate the layperson while offering intricate detail on the drug policies of various cryptomarkets.
Popular Drugs Sold on Cryptomarkets
Unlike street-level drug sales, cryptomarkets are easier to analyze and derive measurable outcomes from thanks to their relatively organized structures.
The two researchers relied on customer reviews and ratings to deduce the most popular products and also come up with their approximate sales volumes.
An analysis conducted on Silk Road during its last month of operation determined that recreational drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, stimulants, pharmaceuticals, and psychedelics were the most purchased drugs on the site.
Another more recent analysis that was conducted on Agora produced slightly different findings although the conclusion was similar.
Cannabis, ecstasy, and pharmaceuticals were still the most purchased drugs on the cryptomarkets.
The consistency of the findings suggested that cryptomarkets primarily served the recreational drug market niche.
Monica Barratt had also been involved in additional studies that confirmed the dominance of recreational party drugs in cryptomarkets. Although the sale of harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine is also present, it is to a less significant degree.
Do Cryptomarkets Offer Superior Drug Quality?
A question that prevailed on most minds prior to the findings brought forward by the publication is: do cryptomarkets sell drugs of superior quality?
Compared to street drugs, Barratt and Aldridge pointed out that the drugs obtained from cryptomarkets were of purer and better quality.
This was backed up by conclusive laboratory tests of some samples they obtained in response to an advertisement on the dark web by their laboratory at Energy Control in Spain.
The cocaine samples that were tested proved to be of much higher quality than samples obtained from the evidence lockers of police precincts. They were also of unadulterated purity.
Despite this, the two researchers were quick to reference another study that elaborates on the parameters within which a drug is determined to be pure or of high quality.
Ultimately, the impact of the drug on the user trumps its pharmacological quality.
Who Uses Darknet Markets?
As pointed out earlier in their report, the recreational drug market niche is the primary source of revenue for cryptomarkets.
The data obtained from four papers highlighted that the dominant demographic was males in their 20s, at least 80%.
Although the demand for the drugs was predominantly for recreational purposes, some potentially addictive use was also recorded.
The report elaborates that cryptomarkets used forums where information concerning the availability of different types of drugs, their quality, and the reliability of the vendor is shared.
Although cryptomarkets primarily serve consumers of drugs, studies unearthed that a quarter of the total number of users obtained the drugs for resale purposes.
The report compares cryptomarkets to a reliable, non-violent middleman that links wholesalers or producer countries to retail-level street vendors in other countries.
This aids the drug manufacturers to move large quantities of the drug to different locations worldwide which are very essential, especially when it comes to the diffusion of new drugs.
Cryptomarkets have provided a rich trove of information to policy makers and researchers.
Despite the lack of physical violence, the report pointed out that conflict arises in ways such as blackmail, fraud, and threats.
Are Cryptomarkets a Part of Our Future?
According to the Global Drug Survey, the usage of cryptomarkets is growing steadily day by day.
Barratt and Aldridge, however, predict that the growth rate might be slowed down or stalled depending on some factors.
One of the most probable causes for the future demise of the darknet markets is the numerous vulnerabilities that plague the system.
The amount of knowledge available at the law enforcement’s disposal and the imminent breakdown of Tor could just as well mean the end of darknet marketplaces since the risks involved with purchasing drugs online would be too many.
Nevertheless, one thing that is certain is that the innovative energy behind the relatively nascent cryptomarkets is still very much alive.
One scenario that might aid the continued growth of these darknet markets is the evolution of cryptocurrencies.
As the use of the virtual currencies becomes harder to trace, cryptomarkets might see an upward surge in their usage thanks to the added anonymity brought about by the technological development.
As per the moment, there is no solid conclusion over the future of cryptomarkets.
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