Dark web vendors in the U.K. have voluntarily delisted fentanyl—a synthetic opioid—citing the severe risks it poses to users.
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the U.K., fentanyl joins the list of commodities that have been blacklisted due to their high-risk nature.
Such products include explosives, mass casualty weapons as well as X-rated content in some marketplaces.
Fentanyl Gets Delisted from Dream Market
Fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than heroin, got blacklisted by Dream Market administrators back in May.
An administrator by the name “Gowron” stated through a message that the marketplace will no longer allow the sale of fentanyl as well as carfentanyl.
The admin further urged users to report any listing of the drug. Vendors who did not comply face the possibility of their accounts being suspended or even blacklisted.
Decisions by darknet market admins to blacklist fentanyl are influenced by the fact that the drug has and can cause widespread fatalities as a result of an overdose, thus attracting the attention of authorities.
Considering the fact that opioids are cash cows for most vendors and marketplaces, a fall in profits is expected to be experienced.
To some, the loss of a few thousand dollars in lost revenue is much better than a knock from law enforcement.
The Opioid Epidemic
In 2017, more than 72,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. It prompted U.S. law enforcement agencies to wage war on not only darknet markets but also vendors on the markets.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in conjunction with law enforcement agencies made efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
This led to a 43-count indictment against two Chinese individuals accused of manufacturing and distributing fentanyl.
At the same time, Operation Darkness Falls, an operation by the Department of Justice had been initiated and saw the fall of AlphaBay, a leading dark web marketplace, as well as key vendors like MH4Life.
In the U.K., the opioid crisis is not as severe as in the U.S. and is reported to have claimed the lives of approximately 160 individuals. However, authorities are keen to avert an opioid crisis.
Vince O’Brien from the NCA stated that the agency is working closely with their U.S. counterparts to tame the opioid threat.
It can be argued that the move to ban fentanyl by vendors and marketplace administrators was purely based on a commercial decision rather than a moral one. Whether the move will help end the opioid crisis is yet to be seen.
However, law enforcement focus on the law and order approach is what drove vendors and other marketplaces to ban the sale of fentanyl to avoid a crackdown.
For vendors who would want to continue with the sale, they will only shift to other marketplaces that have not initiated the ban, or even to social networks that are encrypted and secure.
However, such a move exposes both the customers and vendors to more risks of fraud than through a marketplace.
Critics have pointed out that even with the subsequent ban by marketplaces and vendors, the best way to end the fentanyl crisis is a public health solution approach.
The aggressive prosecuting of crimes involving fentanyl as well as treating overdose deaths as homicides by authorities does not work in the long term.
Creation of a safe consumption space, addiction treatments and a drug checking service to examine the chemical makeup and purity of drugs can help reduce overdose-related deaths.
At the same time, the crackdown on prescription painkillers is not going to stop addiction. According to research studying ways to reduce the addiction crisis, there is need to target the real risk factors.
As long as there is despair and distress, people are going to drive themselves to point of addiction through self-medication.
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