Online market for illegal drugs skyrockets: 6 things to know

The online market for the sale of illegal drugs has dramatically increased in the last three years, according to a recent study by RAND Europe.

The drugs are sold through cryptomarkets — online market places similar to Amazon or Ebay that can only be accessed through encryption software to ensure anonymity.

In 2013, the FBI shut down The Silk Road — the largest drug marketplace on the Internet. However, RAND Europe's study shows the online illegal drug market continues to thrive, reported RAND Europe..

For the study, researchers examined eight different cryptomarkets through both qualitative and quantitative methods by analyzing cryptomarket data, expert and law enforcement interviews, and police case files.

Here are six things to know about the study's findings:

  1. Together, the eight cryptomarkets generated total monthly revenue of $14.2 million.

  2. The number of drug transactions on these illegal sites tripled since 2013 and revenues almost doubled.

  3. Cannabis, stimulants and ecstasy sales produced 70 percent of all revenues for the eight cryomarkets included in the study.

  4. Prescription medications were the fourth best-selling drug, representing almost 18,000 transactions per month.

  5. Most vendors appear to be operating out of the United States (890), the United Kingdom (338) and Germany (225).

  6. Based on limited data, researchers believe vendors tended to be young, well-educated males with strong IT skills from English-speaking countries and Western Europe.

More articles on the drug market:

Is the future of drug pricing based on value?
In Missouri, uptick in criminal activity linked to prescription drugs
Specialty drugs main driver of employers' health insurance costs

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