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Brain Sci. 2018 Mar 16;8(3). pii: E46. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8030046.

The Dynamic Environment of Crypto Markets: The Lifespan of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and Vendors Selling NPS.

Author information

1
School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada. ewadsworth@uwaterloo.ca.
2
National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London SE5 8BB, UK. colin.drummond@kcl.ac.uk.
3
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Maudsley Hospital, London SE5 8AZ, UK. colin.drummond@kcl.ac.uk.
4
National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London SE5 8BB, UK. paolo.deluca@kcl.ac.uk.

Abstract

The Internet has played a major role in the distribution of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), and crypto markets are increasingly used for the anonymous sale of drugs, including NPS. This study explores the availability of individual NPS and vendors on the crypto markets and considers whether crypto markets are a reliable platform for the sale of NPS. Data was collected from 22 crypto markets that were accessed through the hidden web using the Onion Router (Tor). Data collection took place bimonthly from October 2015 to October 2016 as part of the CASSANDRA (Computer Assisted Solutions for Studying the Availability aNd DistRibution of novel psychoActive substances) project. In seven snapshots over 12 months, 808 unique vendors were found selling 256 unique NPS. The total number of individual NPS and vendors increased across the data collection period (increase of 93.6% and 71.6%, respectively). Only 24% (n = 61) of the total number of NPS and 4% (n = 31) of vendors appeared in every snapshot over the 12 months, whereas 21% (n = 54) of NPS and 45% (n = 365) of vendors only appeared once throughout the data collection. The individual NPS and vendors did not remain the same over the 12 months. However, the availability of NPS and vendors selling NPS grew. NPS consistently available on crypto markets could indicate popular substances.

KEYWORDS:

crypto market; darknet; hidden web; legal highs; new psychoactive substances

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