It is typical for government agencies to crack down on specific products by either banning their consumption entirely or restricting the purchases and prescriptions for one reason or the other.
In the United States, the same was the case some few years back after the government put restrictions on prescribed opioids in a bid to fight drug addiction and fatal overdoses in the country.
However, a new study published in the British Medical Journal indicates that the limits yielded no results as more people turned to the dark web to acquire the drugs.
In the study, researchers focused on how prescription restrictions on opioid products has affected the trade of these drugs within darknet markets.
Using a web crawler, the researchers collected data on the trends and patterns seen among 31 selected darknet markets between September 2013 and July 2016.
The sites that were studied included some of the most active markets operating at that time, such as AlphaBay, Nucleus, Dream Market, Agora, Abraxas, Evolution, as well as the various spinoff markets associated with the Silk Road brand.
The results of the study confirm a notable and persistent increase in opioid purchases on darknet markets, despite the government’s efforts to curb opioid drug trade.
The researchers also noted that as much as the rate of prescribed drugs fell after the restrictions were put in place, the same was not seen with overdose cases—a clear indication that more people were getting access to opioid drugs.
The study also showed that the government operated on misguided principles when they assumed that investing and relying more on law enforcement operations to carry out arrests and investigations will dismantle drug trade on darknet markets.
The researchers said that devoting more resources would do little to address the menace because it is not focusing on the root cause, but rather the after effects.
DEA’s Fight Against Opioids
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is among the federal agencies that play a vital role in the fight against drugs. And in 2014, they put restrictions on prescribed medications, making it difficult for users to acquire specific opioids legally.
The DEA has taken part in various high-level operations involving drug trafficking and distribution, and some of the recent activities undertaken include the FBI-led Operation Disarray and another nationwide crackdowns that led to the arrest of over 35 vendors across the country.
Over the years, the DEA has played a role in hundreds of investigations that have involved the arrest and prosecution of suspected individuals taking part in various darknet activities.
Among those who have faced justice because of their undertaking on the dark web include but are not limited to dark web vendors, buyers and operators. Based on the sequence of events that continue to unfold, the U.S. continues to see the collaborative efforts of the various federal agencies yielding results.
A More In-Depth Analysis of the Situation
In normal circumstances, restrictions placed by government agencies usually lead to a drop in the consumption of that particular product.
But for the case of opioids in the U.S., the situation is entirely different because the country continues to face more situations of drug overdoses and other drug-related cases.
And based on the ongoing trend, it is notable that the situation is moving from bad to worse with more people getting involved.
There are a wide variety of factors that have contributed to the menace, and the same elements keep on worsening the situation, and hence the reason why security personnel continue to put up an intense fight. But despite all that they do, there are still victims.
After the ban, users found it difficult to obtain the drugs on a legal basis, and this drove them to seek an alternative in darknet markets. Here they found more than they bargained for with the drug of their choice coming in different forms, doses and potency. What’s more, there are more types of drugs which can be used as substitutes.
Because of this, consumers ended up with multiple options, and by using cryptocurrency (the standard payment option on the dark web), they could purchase the drug supply of their choice and have it delivered within a short time.
More so, and by the use of anonymity tools, individuals fond of using the dark web to acquire drugs do not reveal their identity in most cases.
The U.S.’s Fight Against Drug Crime
It is no doubt that the U.S. is one of the countries that can be looked at as an example in the fight against opioids because of the high number of successful cases as well as the effectiveness of the initiatives involved in bringing down the drug distribution networks.
Over the years, some controversial proposals have been discussed, and one that is likely to discourage dealers is the proposal by the Trump administration to implement the death penalty for those found engaging in drug dealings.
We also have the planned proposal by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the production of opioids. Since there are several manufacturers of opioids operating in the U.S., the implementation of such laws is likely to reduce the amount of drugs available in the country
As much as it is possible to cut down on production through legislation and government monitoring, the dark web will continue to offer an exclusive hub for the drug trade since it’s also used by dealers operating outside of the country. They are the ones who will continue to find a way to navigate the situation and still ship products to the U.S.
Provided that there is a ready market for certain drugs, then the policies are bound to encounter setbacks because they focus more on the reducing the prescriptions without taking into account the level of demand.
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