The sale of non-medical prescription psychiatric drugs (NMPD) has been on the increase of late. This is especially attributed to the rapid set up and growth of darknet market sites.
Users prefer such places as they can get the prescription drugs without actually having a prescription from qualified medical personnel, which they would have to produce when buying the drugs from local pharmacists.
Many health issues have stemmed from this, including high rates of abuse, increased chances of addiction and death.
This has caused increased concern in many countries due to the increasing amount of resources they have to rehabilitate the addicts.
Specialists have therefore been employed to enable a better understanding of the trends in drug sales on the dark web.
Little Information Regarding Worldwide Trends in NMPD Use
There are a lot of challenges experienced in the collection of data on NMPD use in various regions of the world, causing little information about worldwide trends.
This is because most of the users are uncooperative during data gathering since they fear reporting themselves to law enforcement units or implicating their friends and suppliers.
The necessity of data concerning the use of psychiatric prescription drugs led to the advent of a tool known as DATACRYPTO, which collects any data related to crypto markets.
The data was then processed to enable people to understand the geographical distribution of drug sales.
Sales Trends of Commonly Used Drugs
In a study published February 2019 in the International Journal of Drug Policy, data was collected from 31 different darknet markets between late-2013 and mid-2016.
According to the data gathered, the most abused drugs were non-psychiatric drugs which have total sales of 89.5 percent, followed by hypnotics and anxiolytics which had total sales of 7.9 percent.
Other commonly sold drugs were central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs, opioid depressants and antiepileptics.
Stimulants such as modafinil, methylphenidate and Adderall, as well as hypnotics such as diazepam and alprazolam, also had large sales.
Sales levels for drugs used to manage dementia and mental health problems such as depression or bipolar disorder were rarely sold on the dark web as evidenced by the negligible percentage that they account for in the sale of NMPD.
These drugs include antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and antidementia drugs.
The data involving sales and usage differed in varied geographical locations.
The U.K., for instance, demonstrated an increase in sedative sales, whereas the U.S. has demonstrated the greatest number of stimulant sales, a rise in the amount of sedatives being sold and high levels of sales of opioids.
The increased sales of alprazolam have accounted for the most abused and most addictive NMPDs in Australia, the U.K. and U.S. The study found that 7.2 percent of the total darknet drug sales from Australia were hypnotics and anxiolytics.
Sales Trends in Major Countries
Places that have the highest use of darknet markets are major countries such as the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Australia and the Netherlands.
All of these account for 8.5 percent of the use of the dark web for the purpose of acquiring NMPDs.
Of all these major countries, the U.K. has shown the greatest rise in sales rates of sedatives, with a 1% increase every year.
Such information makes a very important part of policy making in the country.
The U.S. has shown the highest levels of use of sedatives, CNS stimulants and opioids.
They make up 60 percent of the total sales of opiates and stimulants, but these figures drop to just 40 percent when the prevalence of sedatives is added.
Their sedative procuring rate via dark web marketplaces rises by .5 percent per year. This, however, does not show that most of the users of darknet markets are from the U.S.
The U.K. demonstrates 33 percent of the total sales of sedatives. This is in line with reports on England’s public health data, which also showed the rise in NMPD use in the country.
Sales of Sedatives in Other Countries
Sales of sedatives in some areas are often met by law restrictions and many other challenges, thus lowering their market.
These challenges include the wide distance between the location where the drugs originate and their destination and border restrictions such as those at borders between member states of the Schengen Area.
Previous and recent studies in Germany show that sedatives sales have been decreasing owing to such problems.
The Netherlands also has an almost non-existent sedative market.
However, other countries of the Schengen Area such as Denmark, Austria and Sweden have high and very consistent drug sales.
The latter among them has increased sales by about 10 percent each year from 20 percent of the total sales and also demonstrates increasing rates of sedative use.
Analysts report that the high levels of sales in the three countries are quite unusual and can be attributed to less restricted trades taking place within the Schengen Area.
The U.S. is associated with the highest levels of sales of opioid prescription drugs. This reflects the high opiate dependency across the region.
Most of the drugs in this category are likely to be abused including methadone and buprenorphine.
Others have no dependency potential and include naloxone.
U.K. and Germany sales data fall just right after the U.S. Sales in both countries account for 10 percent of the overall sales of opioid prescription drugs.
NMPD Use and Impact on Health
The use of NMPD has become a critical emerging health concern in various regions over recent years.
This is associated with the rise of darknet markets which facilitate sales of various restricted and controlled drugs.
Healthcare providers and policymakers have found it imperative that they follow the trends in dark web sales of these drugs so as to predict the levels of use and addiction among consumers.
This will help them with health planning, budgeting and also channeling the right amount of resources into dealing with drug-related health issues.
This is already causing a strain in resource distribution as more resources are being used to cater for the cost of building rehabilitation centers and running them.
Such resources would have been channeled to other infrastructure projects or other serious health issues.
There is also a need for experts to be involved in the process so as to analyze the dynamics in the operation of darknet market sites.
This will help with further understanding the depth of the implications that arise with changes in the sales of NMPDs.
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