Cheaper product availability has led to a surge of drug users taking to the internet to find their drugs, according to a new report.
The annual Global Drug Survey, which garnered around 102,000 responses from people around the world, shows that more than one in 10 respondents (10%) bought drugs online in 2014. A quarter of these 11,750 respondents stated that 2014 was the first time that they took to dark websites such as Silk Road to get their fix, whereas just 16% of online drug buyers had gone online for the first time in 2013.
"Reduced rates of exposure to violence, less adulterated drugs, more confidence in product quality and removal from street dealing were clear benefits," were the reasons the report gave for the surge in online activity.
Dark web explained
The dark web is a section of the internet that is not indexed by search engines such as Google, and not easily navigated to using a standard web browser.
Accessing the dark web requires specialised knowledge and software tools. An example of this is content only accessible by using the Tor software and anonymity network, which while protecting privacy, is often associated with illicit activities.
MDMA powder and LSD were the most popular drugs that were sourced online, as 37.2% and 30.3% respectively said that they opted for these drugs.
Easier accessibility and more options via the internet also led 30% to claim that they have tried a wider range of drugs. More than 15% of British respondents said that they had ordered from the internet.
Overall, cannabis was the most popular illegal drug, with 73% of respondents saying that they smoke it.
There was evidently a correspondence with drug use and legal mental enhancers such as tobacco and alcohol, as 95% say that they drank and almost 80% stating that they smoke cigarettes.
Dr Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey, said that the only products on the list that people seem to be taking more of now are electronic cigarettes, of which a fifth said they use, and shisha tobacco, with 43% saying that they smoked.
"That for me says a really important lesson," said Winstock in a video blog about the findings. "That no matter what we hear about new drugs overtaking the world, I just don't think it's true."
Winstock also talks about the various methamphetamine, or crystal meth, epidemics that are regularly reported by the media in various locations, which he also describes as a bit of a myth.
"The truth is it actually remains a pretty rare drug for most countries," he says, with the only notable exceptions being Australia and the USA where 16.4% and 10.2% of respondents respectively said that they had used it. Just 3.8% of Britons had tried methamphetamine.