Trends in the availability and types of drugs sold on the internet via cryptomarkets, February 2022 – January 2023
This bulletin series reports on trends in the availability and types of drugs sold on the internet via cryptomarkets over the last 12 months (a new bulletin is released typically every four months). The current bulletin focuses on analysis of drug listings on cryptomarkets from 1 February 2022 to 31 January 2023. Drug Trends hasidentified, crawled (or ‘scraped’), extracted, categorised and analysed drug listings on cryptomarkets on a regular basis since 1 January 2014, formerly using VBA programming processes, and since 9 August 2018 using a range of programmed automated processes in Python that operate with minimal manual input.
Following extraction of common text features across each listing (e.g., drug listing name, vendor name), individual listings are then categorised according to a pre-specified drug classification structure. Drug categorisation is carried out through rules-based text-matching in the first instance, followed by a long short-term memory (LSTM) artificial neural network (target predictive percentage 90%) that has been trained on historically categorised listings for those not matched through the former process. Further background and information regarding the methods are available for download.
- From 1 February 2022 to 31 January 2023, 21 cryptomarkets were monitored, of which five closed before the end of the reporting period. We began monitoring five new cryptomarkets during this period.
- The three markets reaching more than 10,000 listings in a snapshot during this period were DarkFox, Dark0de and AlphaBay, of which Dark0de closed before January 2023 due to an exit scam.
- In the final month of reporting, DarkFox, ASAP, Bohemia and Incognito were the largest cryptomarkets.
- The number of drug listings decreased from February 2022 to January 2023 but the change was not statistically significant (p=0.887). The decrease (in spite of a general increase in individual market sizes) is largely due to the difficulty in accessing markets with persistent DDoS attacks in December 2022 and January 2023.
- Cannabis comprised the greatest percentage of drug listings from February 2022 to January 2023 (30%), followed by benzodiazepines (7.7%), cocaine (7.5%), MDMA (7.4%), opioids (excluding heroin) (6.4%), meth/amphetamine (illicit) (5.8%) and PIEDs/weight loss drugs (5.8%).
- The market share of other medicines showed the highest rate of increase from 2.9% in February 2022 to 3.5% in January 2023. The greatest rate of decrease in market share was observed for meth/amphetamine (illicit) from 6.6% in February 2022 to 5.2% in January 2023.
The full bulletin is available online via the NDARC website.