Next time you are shopping around online and come across a deal on your prescriptions, take a closer look.
With the crackdown on opioids happening all over the nation, many people are finding new ways to try and get their hands on these powerful prescription drugs. Some may be illicit drug traffickers looking for a new way to get their supply and reduce the risk. Meanwhile, others may be everyday people looking for a cheaper, easier method to get their pain management medications. Either way, if you are getting your drugs online, it’s more than likely you’re breaking the law.
Online Opioid Pharmacies or Digital Drug Dealers
The internet is famous for making our lives more convenient. Whether we are shopping for new shoes, movie tickets, or even our weekly groceries, the internet has found a way to let it be a mouse click or touch-screen tap away. So of course, many would be willing to believe you could order plenty of your much-needed medications online. Yet, with a new report by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) we find most of these sales are actually illegitimate.
The report was initially released on opioid sales on the darknet. However, during the research, the CSIP found that people on both the Dark Web and “surface web” sell drugs like opioid painkillers. The distribution of these potent medications is being done through online opioid pharmacies. Nonetheless, according to the FDA:
97% of online pharmacies operate illegally
Just to break things down a little bit, let us explain two key terms.
The surface web is the portion of the world wide web as we know it that is readily available to the general public. This is where you do most of your online shopping, social media activity, and probably where you are reading this article right now.
Strangely, even though people would think that anything on the surface web is probably safer, the CSIP report states that “surface websites” actually involve higher risks for scams. For example, this would be non-delivery schemes where the site takes your money without producing a product, or credit card and identity theft.
This is the World Wide Web content that exists on “darknets”. These are networks that use the internet, but require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. The dark web forms a small part of the “deep web”, which is the part of the internet not indexed by search engines.
The Dark Web is where a lot of the internet’s most illicit activities actually happen. It is a modern digital underground.
Many of these so-called online opioid pharmacies are only click-baiting people into the illicit drug trade. In reality, these are drug-dealing websites set up to look like they simply sell prescription pills to those in need. Some even go as far as to offer prescriptions for the drugs. CSIP’s report also states that these online pharmacies will attempt to use social media platforms to advertise their products, including:
Some of these online opioid pharmacies will claim on their website that they are legitimate and legally approved. However, CSIP’s executive director Marjorie Clifton says that’s impossible for most of them. In one interview Clifton states:
“It’s absolutely illegal to buy opioids on the internet.”
Now, it is not entirely illegal to operate a pharmacy online. Clifton said that some non-opioid-selling pharmacies are legal. However, these entities do have to follow certain rules. For example:
- They must have a brick-and-mortar location
- Must be licensed in every state that they sell to
You can verify that the pharmacy that you’re buying from is legal by using tools created by the CSIP.
Not only is it risking legal action to use these illegitimate sources, it is also a serious health risk. Online opioid pharmacies may seem like an economical and efficient way to get medication, but non-certified pharmacies present significant danger because there is no way of knowing what you are getting. Clifton states:
“One, you might not get the concentration you thought you were going to get, it could be a placebo.”
“There have been cases when it’s rat poison or lead paint. So you have no idea what you’re taking if you’re not buying from a certified pharmacy.”
It is already dangerous enough for getting these medications illegally on the street. Over the years there have been countless reports of other powerful and toxic substances being pressed into forged pill forms. That risk is very real when buying drugs from an anonymous source over the internet.
Internet Associations Fighting Back
CSIP is an organization made up of representatives of companies like Google and Microsoft. Clifton says there are no ties between this tech industry collaboration and the pharmaceutical industry. The organization says it is committed to reducing harm from illegitimate online opioid pharmacies. Clifton also says that the issue of drug addiction is personally devastating, adding that several board members have lost loved ones to addiction.
So far, CSIP has removed more than 100 million ads and social media posts. The organization has effectively shut down thousands of illegal online opioid pharmacies. Many of these sites were functionally the same illegal pharmacies operating with different URL’s, but belonging to the same scammers.
Even though increased regulation resulted in a small jump in darknet sales, the vast majority of prescription drug abuse comes from prescriptions written by actual doctors. Overall, the CSIP report found that less than 5% of opioids purchased in the US came from anywhere on the internet. CSIP reports were also utilized in the Online Opioid Summit hosted by the FDA last month when top names in internet stakeholders got together with advocacy groups and other government officials to discuss the role internet companies play in combatting the opioid crisis. Most of the tech industry insists they should not be blamed for the opioid crisis.
Still, the organization is trying to play a part in eliminating online opioid pharmacies. Beyond that, we should also focus on promoting safe medical detox opportunities, along with dual diagnosis programs and holistic drug treatment options.
When we talk about fighting the spread of addiction, one thing we have to remember is to make sure people looking for help get all the information they need. Palm Partners Recovery Center believes that we should also focus on using our digital footprint to help people learn about the risks associated with substance abuse, and give them the opportunity to learn about safe and effective treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
As if anyone would think computer hackers and programmers were in short supply, barely a few hours after authorities shut down Silk Road 2.0 last week the third installment of the online Dark Web drug market was launched. However, the new site has been met with great criticism.
New Kids or Old Tricks
Silk Road 2.0 was launched in response to the original Silk Road being shut down by the FBI, but Silk Road 3 Reloaded is actually a strategic name change from a website that was formerly named Diabolus Market. That site was launched just under a month ago as a ‘cannabis-only’ marketplace, but an automated email to users recent sent out described the site as “an anonymous, professional and peaceful marketplace selling all sorts of goods and services…there is no judgement, censorship or repercussion here. We are truly free.”
Initially is seems that the new site is simply attempting to ride the coat-tails of a more infamous enterprise. Even the automated messages from Silk Road 3 use the name Dread Pirate Roberts, which the original Silk Road founder went by. Ross William Ulbricht, the original Silk Road founder, was arrested last October by federal authorities. He is currently being charged with:
- Soliciting murder
- Drug trafficking
- Money laundering
- Facilitating computer hacking
The alleged operator of the new site even claims to actively be working with a member of the Silk Road 2.0 team. They wrote in an email
“He/she is using my code and servers but is operating SR 3.0 themselves. I don’t have anything more to say.”
Can’t Fool the Customers
Despite these supposed claims to the Silk Road fame, users remain skeptical and have not been pleased with the overall functionality of the new site. A regular user named Budflood wrote,
“The Silkroad [sic] 2.0 was designed with a lot more sophistication. This looks like it’s just been thrown together by a bunch of kids.”
Blake Benthall who launched Silk Road 2.0 was arrested last week and faces 10 years on charges including:
- Conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking
- Conspiring to commit computer hacking
- Conspiring to traffic in fraudulent identification documents
- Money laundering conspiracy
He was reportedly second-in-command for Silk Road 2.0 until December 2013, but began running the website when its founder ceased operations following the arrests of the original Silk Road operators.
No doubt, this apparently cheap imitation of the Silk Road will eventually be brought down the same as the others, and sure enough until there is a better handle on the Dark Web, sites like these will keep cropping up to try and corner the digital drug market. With the evolution of drug dealing, and reform in drug policies, treatment must continue to evolve and address the issue to help those who still suffer, and there is help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Silk Road was originally an internet black market used for digital drug dealing to be utilized for people to make massive sales and purchases without having to take the average dealers risk of riding around with large quantities of narcotics in their car, or meeting in shady alleys.
While the first Silk Road was shut down some time ago following an extensive investigation and the operator arrested, there was a new version that went online and active to take up the mantel, which has thankfully been put to an end as soon as possible.
The end of the line came up relatively quickly for Silk Road 2.0, a secretive online drugs marketplace created and modeled after the original “Amazon.com of drugs”. The plug was recently pulled on the second generation Silk Road 2.0. Today, the FBI announced they’ve put a swift and effective end to the second installment of the illicit drugs website, and taken its alleged owner, 26-year-old Blake Benthall, into custody.
The Illicit Legacy
The illegal Dark Web, which is only accessible by volunteer-operated encrypted networks like Tor, always attracts many “freedom-loving” types including libertarians, hackers and anarchists, as well as criminals of all kinds looking to make a change to their own enterprises through a ‘safer’ forum.
When the FBI arrested Ulbritch in 2013 he was placed in custody and faced trial on charges including narcotics trafficking, money laundering, computer hacking, and even conspiracy to commit murder.
During the brief absence of Silk Road rival marketplaces such as Agora and Evolution continued to operate. Agora quickly became the new standard for online drug transactions. Its main competitor, Black Market Reloaded, was shut down in November 2013 after its source code was leaked. After that, Sheep was the main competitor until it too went under—and stole a treasure in users’ bitcoin.
A big part of Black Market Reloaded’s success came from its willingness to sell lethal weapons, including dynamite and other explosives. Silk Road had no objection to offering a wide range of merchandise, but that site drew the line at weapons.
Passing the Torch
Silk Road 2.0 developed and went viral within a matter of weeks after owner Ross Ulbritch, known by the online alias “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was arrested in October of last year. Benthall, who is known online as “Defcon,” began operating Silk Road 2.0 that December, only a month after the site was launched by a co-conspirator who remains un-identified at this time. Given the nature of the crime and the collective evidence against “Defcon” the charges against Benthall could carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbritch had initially created Silk Road as a way to try and avoid the dangers typically associated with the sale and trafficking of illegal narcotics. Ulbritch’s end-game was to transform an infamously violent industry into a safe online marketplace for safe and lucrative business by removing the risk of face-to-face transactions with what he called “humanity’s first truly free, anonymous, unbiased marketplace.”
Transactions through this kind of Dark Web black-market style sites are made using Bitcoins and the websites operate in the shady areas of the Internet that are not indexed and therefore not easily obtainable by standard search engines. Other illicit services that were sold through this class of websites included everything from hacking-tools to hit-men.
The Investigation Information
According to the information collected during the investigation it was recorded that as of this past September, prosecutors claim that Silk Road 2.0 was generating at least an astounding $8 million a month. Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement:
“Let’s be clear – this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison.”
Benthall has entered a plea of not guilty as of this point. He is currently scheduled for trial in New York in January. In the meantime, many are wondering if this only means we will be expecting these hackers and digital drug dealers to upgrade their systems and strategies, and if so how long until we see the arrival of Silk Road 3.0.
While the digital age of drug dealing presents new problems for those who are fighting the war on drugs, it also presents a new problem for those struggling to overcome the disease of addiction. There have been several developments on how social media and the Dark Web intend to make drug dealing as easy as a download, but that puts more who have drug problems at even greater risk. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
I have been writing a lot lately on the dangers we are now facing as a society in this digital age. The “Generation D” faces a lot of issues that are unique to this time-period, as more and more technology develops. Websites and even Instagram accounts are used to sell drugs, and now there has been some effort to trace which nations deal most in what.
The infamous “Dark Web” also called the “Deep Web” is the like the Amazon.com or Ebay.com for illicit goods, accessibly only through backdoor software and encrypted networks, where your skilled hacker and other tech-smart individuals can get their hands on all types of illegal merchandise, and have it priority mailed with total anonymity.
What is the “Dark Web”
The first time many people heard of the infamous “Dark Web”, which is the entire area of the Internet compiled of sites that cannot be accessed via standard search engines, and requires a little more skill, was when “Silk Road” was taken down around a year ago. “Silk Road” was at the time history’s most notorious online flea market for illegal substances, and apparently an estimated $1.2 billion business model. The illusive internet drug kingpin who ran it went by the name “Dread Pirate Roberts“, who eventually was revealed to be Ross William Ulbricht. This 29-year-old University of Texas graduate allegedly responsible for mass amounts of online drug trafficking plead not guilty to several charges last month and is due to stand trial this coming November.
Through sites like these people can find everything that would otherwise be a bit of a bother to get ahold of. You can get something as simple as a fake ID, or even guns, but the most common currency here on the cyber-marketplace is drugs. Since the “Silk Road” was dismantled by the FBI last year, many people expected the digital drug market to die off. Unfortunately new internet market-places have stepped in to corner that market. With names like “Silk Road 2” it seems they definitely intended to fill the gap, but they will be looking at the same kind of crackdown once the site is infiltrated. While dealers remain anonymous, so far that has not proven to be to foolproof.
Though drugs on the “Dark Web” are sold anonymously, Vocative.com found a way to remarkably sort and categorize each drug dealer through the locations from which items are shipped, which allowed them to compile some graphs which illustrate which countries many of these narcotic products originate in, and which countries have more of a reputation for specific substances as far as this market goes.
Now these numbers are not exact, and the statistics do not include all of the other illegal drug deals happening off of the internet around the world. This is not meant to show who should take the most credit, but it does raise an eyebrow as to how this type of trade is effective in several different countries, and in which nation are websites like these taken advantage of most.
What Countries Sold What
Again, this data is not absolutely complete. First one has to keep in mind these numbers are made assuming each online vendor is being truthful about where he or she is shipping from, and that’s impossible to double-check. Second, the numbers show the number of listings, not sales. So for example if one “Dark Web” drug dealer may actually have 100 listings but 0 sales, while another might have one listing and 100 sales.
The Netherlands turns out to be the number one seller of MDMA, with Germany close behind.
MDMA- number of listings
- Netherlands- 470
- Germany- 211
Athough Amsterdam is known for pot, it seems Uncle Sam is still on top of the marijuana game because the Unite States is shipping more than twice as much marijuana as its nearest competitor.
Marijuana- number of listings
- USA- 935
- Germany- 478
- Netherlands- 313
As if we need another reason to be #1 America is also first place for shipping LSD, the UK struggling to keep up.
LSD- number of listings
- USA- 294
- United Kingdom- 226
- Germany- 181
America also has bragging rights for shipping the most cocaine with the Netherlands not far off our heels.
Cocaine- number of listings
- USA- 315
- Netherlands- 258
- United Kingdom- 174
With these kinds of drug dealers free to act on their own ventures unchecked for a time, there is no real way of tracing every deal and every package shipped, which is probably what continues to make this issue one that is most disconcerting. If we cannot even begin to trace the drugs back to their original nation, how will the authorities ever trace the dealers? Then again it would not be the first time online dealers got clever, got confident, and then got caught.
In any nation, anyone can be affected by the disease of addiction. Illicit drugs can be found in every corner of any country, some drugs more often than others, but addicts suffer the same across the board. Global awareness and effort is being made to try and make a change, but in the life of an addict there may not be much time left. There is a way to save your life, and you don’t have to cross the world to do it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.