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How the Deep Web’s Illicit Drug Markets Promote Safe Drug Use

Most of us have heard about the dreaded, oh-so-evil “dark web,” as well as the seemingly-interchangeable term “deep web.”

The dark web is the collection of websites that require advanced, specialized configurations and setups to access. The deep web is simply all websites that cannot be found on Google, which includes companies’ in-house web-based tools and applications. To help you better understand them, remember that the dark web fits within the greater deep web — kinda like how rectangles are squares but squares aren’t rectangles.

Believe it or not, the majority of the Internet takes the form of the deep web.

How Do People Access the Dark Web?

In the modern world, most Internet users who access the dark web do so via the Tor Browser, where “Tor” is short for The Onion Router. Tor, which contains the Tor Browser — all these things with Tor in their names are made by The Tor Project — helps people engage in anonymous communication. Tor is entirely free to both download and use; it’s also open-source software.

Using Tor Browser itself isn’t enough to protect your identity while browsing the dark web, though it’s a great start. Downloading the Tor Browser Bundle is as easy as making a quick google search — better yet, it’s a quick download.

One of the most common websites on the modern dark web is those that help people sell and purchase illicit goods and services. These operate similar to eBay, in that such sites simply act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers. AlphaBay Market, for example, was one of the largest online darknet markets before being shut down in mid-July 2017.

Drug Users Benefit From Exchanging Illicit Drugs on Tor-Based Websites

In real life, very, very few drug users are familiar with any local area’s list of dealers. Buyers often know anywhere from one to a few local dealers, but usually never all of them. Assume that you know all the dealers in Joshuatown.

You can shop among this network of dealers and potentially leverage one dealer’s offer against another. However, while you, personally, might be able to peruse your fully-unlocked menu of illicit drug salesmen, almost everybody else in your locality will not.

I bring this up because if they were able to, they’d likely pay less for drugs due to increased competition among vendors.

Provides Access to Legitimate Forms of Drugs That Are Sometimes Hard to Get

Darknet markets make it easy for drug users around the world to get their hands on drugs of higher quality than they could get among their real-life drug connections, drugs they couldn’t otherwise purchase within their localities, and to shop for the safest, most highly-reviewed goods on such digital storefronts.

Wider competition forces vendors to offer up their most potent, least-adulterated substances. Also, because people in other parts of the world who str able to access drugs that are hard to find in other people’s lives, they’re incentivized to register on these illicit eBay-like websites and capitalize on their valuable sources of sought-after drugs.

Many drug users who are familiar with dark web markets know how seriously useful they are in obtaining these harder-to-find psychoactive substances. Since only people with legitimately high-quality sources are likely to even begin to succeed on the market, they’re not likely to proffer illegitimate drugs.

Reviews Form the Backbone of E-Commerce-Based Illicit Drug Markets

Reviews mean the world to the participants of the dark web’s drug markets. Just two or three bad reviews in a row can mean significant business declines for these Internet-based dealers.

On these types of markets, since users’ identifies are safeguarded, the only way to gauge how much users mean to others is by turning to their reviews and other means of gauging reputation.

What’s so good about these reviews? Most sites anonymize identifying information about reviewers, such as the exact times that they made purchases, their usernames, or the exact amount of dollars spent. As such, in most cases, they can freely leave reviews on vendors without having to worry about facing repercussions.

Reviews are typically posted within a few minutes or hours of their publication. This is done for user safety.

Less Violence Is Associated With This Mode of Purchasing and Selling Drugs

Drug dealers and other criminals engage in violence to assert dominance over competitors. One such application of violence by a drug dealer or a group of like-minded dealers is to perform a drive-by shooting if a member of a rival gang or group of drug dealers. The intended result of such violent activity is to dissuade those rival gang members or dealers, ultimately resulting in more business for the party who shot.

This is one way drug users can find themselves on the receiving end of violent crime.

It’s safe to say that everybody who has used drugs for any stretch has been robbed of or taken advantage of for drugs at least once. We know all too well that users and dealers alike are prone to gather up weapons and other criminals’ help to rob others of money or illicit drugs.

If someone does, in fact, manage to get over on you in real life, you may be inclined to act violently to the perpetrator(s), ranging from a sucker punch to point-blank sprays of gunfire. That’s right — violence here, violence there, violence everywhere in the world of drugs.

Unless you arrange to meet a buyer or seller in real life — something you should never do — you’ll almost certainly never find yourself victimized by violence as a result of drug deals going bad or other criminal behavior.

You Don’t Have to Leave the Comfort of Your Home

Purchasing drugs without having to leave your home — or wherever you order them from — is safer than having to drive or otherwise meet your dealer and venturing back to your place of residence.

Life is risky. You never know when a car accident could take place, for example. Not having to get out reduces the risks of such real-yet-unlikely threats.

Law enforcement agencies stress the importance of carrying out traffic stops to the best of their government-given abilities. Pulling drivers over leads to so many other things for law enforcement officers, such as finding drugs or drug paraphernalia. This is a risk that drug users like me have to face.

Eventually, we’ll all get pulled over or apprehended by law enforcement. Put simply, the less you drive in sourcing your drugs of choice, the less likely you are to experience interference from law enforcement.

If Done Correctly, Curious Government Officials Will Almost Entirely Be Unable to Intercept Mailed Packages Containing Illicit Drugs

When it comes to mailing things within and outside of the United States, the three couriers that we Americans have access to are FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

FedEx and UPS are both private businesses. By paying for postage, you’re agreeing to several terms and conditions that ultimately give workers employed by UPS or FedEx, to look inside any and all packages that make their way through these two companies’ facilities.

USPS — also known as the United States Postal Servicemust obtain a search warrant before searching any packages or parcels that have any of its workers, facilities, or vehicles. As such, illicit goods are almost always shipped via USPS as a best practice.

What About the Legal Statutes Violated by People Buying and Selling Drugs via the Internet and the Mail System?

As you might imagine, the laws people violate for buying and selling drugs via mail within the United States carry much more harsh punishments than small-time drug possession and drug paraphernalia possession charges.

Federal crimes like narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and computer hacking are three of many examples of punishments that can stem from selling drugs via the Internet and the mail.

I’m not an attorney, so I don’t know exactly how many more years in jail that buying or selling drugs online might bring as compared to doing so in traditional, face-to-face form; however, it’s safe to say that, in most cases, using the mail and the Internet to engage in these activities hold serious sentences.

Also, because darknet markets are relatively new, U.S. law enforcement agencies are more than willing to make examples out of people caught up in this stuff.

Bringing All the Loose Ends Together

Am I telling you to purchase or sell illicit drugs online? No!

I am simply recognizing the handful of very real benefits to drug users that can be derived from using Tor-based websites to purchase and sell illicit drugs.

Also, because it’s possible to safeguard your identity when using darknet markets, drug policy reform and harm reduction advocates can engage in darknet-market-based commercial activity related to illicit drugs without standing very much of a chance of risking their freedom.

People who are unwilling to come out as drug users, such as how I have, due to the obvious potential consequences associated with it, might find utility in Tor-based markets that oversee the sale and purchase of illegal drugs. In other words, they might prefer to engage in advocacy on this level as opposed to being active in the real world.

By Daniel Garrett

I'm a self-employed writer, long-term drug user, and resident of rural Tennessee. Find me on Twitter at @DanielGarrettHR or email me at danpgarr@ut.utm.edu.

2 replies on “How the Deep Web’s Illicit Drug Markets Promote Safe Drug Use”

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