The Problems With Buying Drugs Online
March 11, 2014

The Problems With Buying Drugs Online

When the Silk Road online marketplace opened up, it appeared that drug users might have a convenient, anonymous way to get their fix – but as with most things drug-related, the reality wasn’t so simple and easy.

Also referred to as the “eBay of drugs,” Silk Road visitors could buy illegal weapons or drugs using a web tool called Tor that guarded their identity. Payments in the online market place were made using Bitcoin – a widely accepted online currency. The site was eventually shut down in October, 2013, by the FBI.

While the technically convoluted and highly-illegal nature of the drug transactions may have frustrated some, new information compiled by the Clarity Way rehab facility has shown that drugs sold for a much higher price on Silk Road than they typically go for on the street.

Image Credit: Clarity Way

Image Credit: Clarity Way

“Substance abuse comes with many costs. Emotional, health and career costs are just a few that we can name,” the facility wrote in a recent blog post. “However, Silk Road added yet another cost on top of its substance users’ problems: spending costs.”

Clarity Way pointed out that buying price of heroin on Silk Road was about twice the drug’s average street price. The rehab facility added that about 20 percent of American drug users would have overpaid by more than $100 for a nearly $200 quantity of the opiate. With respect to marijuana, users in North Dakota were the only ones who would have seen cheaper prices on Silk Road.

More than a month after the site was busted, Silk Road 2.0 came online – but that website recently ran into a completely different problem: hackers. In February, hackers victimized both buyers and sellers on the reincarnated black market – to the tune of $2.5 million.

“Our initial investigations indicate that a vendor exploited a recently discovered vulnerability in the Bitcoin protocol known as ‘transaction malleability’ to repeatedly withdraw coins from our system until it was completely empty,” wrote Defcon, a person claiming to be a Silk Road staffer.

A few days later, Defcon announced that victims would be “completely repaid.”

“We are deep into the investigation of data surrounding the attacks, and there is absolutely zero evidence of any staff member being involved,” Defcon wrote. “We will publish more information as we determine its accuracy, thank you to all who have contributed tips on the attackers’ identities.”

These uncertainties seem pretty consistent with the unfettered capitalism of the black market. The bottom line is that buying and using illegal drugs just isn’t worth it – especially if those transactions are being made online.

Featured Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Brett Smith is a freelance journalist from Buffalo, NY. When not writing about science, medicine or other newsworthy topics, he enjoys Upstate New York by camping and hiking in the summers and snowboarding in the winters. Like most Buffalonians, he eats chicken wings year round.

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