The market for online sales of illegal drugs has greatly increased in the last three years, according to an in-depth study carried out by RAND Europe.
The study (which we first saw on NBC News) analysed popular “deep web” drug websites that operate on a hidden version of the internet accessible through the Tor web browser.
RAND Europe’s study found that the number of transactions on illegal drug sites has tripled since 2013, and revenues have almost doubled.
The change in drug marketplaces since 2013 is especially significant as that was the year that the biggest drug marketplace, The Silk Road, was shut down by police. RAND Europe’s study has found that the closure of the site didn’t bring down the online drug sales industry.
Elsewhere in the study, researchers found that wholesale transactions (which it categorised as sales worth over $1,000 [£770]) generated a quarter of total revenue for drug marketplaces. That figure was unchanged between 2013 and 2016, though.
Cannabis was the most popular drug globally, making up 33% of drug marketplace transactions. But the report looked at sales to Holland specifically and found that it only made up 17% of transactions there. That’s likely because the sale of cannabis is legal in the country through licensed venues, reducing the need for people to use illegal online stores.
The most popular shipping route for illegal drugs was within North America, the study found. The second most popular shipping route was within Europe. And the most popular international trading route for drugs was from Asia to North America.