The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) would like to clarify that, while its activities include reporting on online drug markets, it is not recruiting hackers or rehabilitated traffickers to tackle drug trafficking on the internet, as stated in the various media articles this week.
The last decade has seen the emergence of new internet technologies that have acted as important facilitators of online drug markets. The internet now hosts a range of virtual marketplaces (both on the surface and deep web) for selling and buying illicit substances, as well as representing a new arena for health and law-enforcement interventions. The agency draws on a variety of perspectives, including academia, journalism and frontline practice, to gain an overview of this complex topic and fast-changing environment.
With a view to shedding further light on this issue, the EMCDDA published its first investigation into the world of online drug markets in February 2016 (see below). This brought together state-of-the-art input from over 20 experts and contributed to the knowledge base on this part of the supply chain.
In April 2016, the internet was also covered in the EMCDDA-Europol EU Drug Markets Report. Among the themes explored in the report was the accelerated rate of change in the drug market due to globalisation and technology (criminal groups are quick to exploit opportunities provided by easier access to information, the internet and the growth in international trade).
The EMCDDA reiterates that, while it explores a number of sources and perspectives, it is not recruiting, and has never recruited, hackers or rehabilitated traffickers to tackle drug trafficking on the internet.
This publication was based on a mixed-method Trendspotter study on internet drug markets, aiming to map out the territory and better understand the potential impact of the phenomenon. The objectives of the study were to increase understanding of the online supply of drugs with a focus on the sale of new psychoactive substances, research chemicals and ‘legal highs’; the use of social media and apps; online sales of medicinal products for illicit use; and the sale of drugs on the deep web. Analysis was based on triangulation of the available data, with a view to providing as complete and verified a picture as possible.
The study methodology incorporated a number of investigative approaches and used data from multiple sources, with the work culminating in a Trendspotter meeting attended by international experts. These experts shared their experiences and contributed to an analysis of the topic, providing insights from IT, research and monitoring, law enforcement and drug-user perspectives.