E-commerce drug dealers apparently give out free samples of various illegal drugs.
A Boston College sociologist spent nearly a year on the dark web collecting data from a large e-commerce website that sells prescription and illicit drugs. His study, titled "Instantly Hooked? Freebies and Samples of Opioids, Cannabis, MDMA, and Other Drugs in an Illicit E-Commerce Market," appears in the Journal of Drug Issues. His research produced several fascinating findings.
First, dark web dealers give away free samples of all the major drugs, and this Costco-style approach to marketing definitely "increases vendor sales for prescription drugs and opioid-based painkillers." Second, a look at online forums showed that reputable dark web "drug critics" are among the primary beneficiaries of the free samples.
That's right, the dark web has actual drug reviewers.
Earlier last year, the same researcher published a study in The British Journal of Criminology that found dark web sales increased in 2015 after the courts sentenced Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht to life in prison without parole. The Texan started the Silk Road in 2011 as an anonymous online black market for drugs, and it became a billion-dollar enterprise by the time he was caught in late 2013. The study estimated that in 2013 the Silk Road contained 12,000 listings for illicit items like drugs and counterfeit documents, while a 2016 look at the new dark web leader, Alphabay, contains nearly a quarter million listings for drugs alone. The press surrounding the case apparently served as effective marketing for the dark web.
Ironically, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent involved in the Silk Road case was arrested in 2015 for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in bitcoin from the dark web site.