Researchers have found out that since the prescription opioid crackdown began, sales from dark web sales for the targeted medications have steadily increased. A new study has found the rules meant to crack down on the use of opioids have turned some individuals to the black market.
A report from 2014 shows that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) put new regulations on hydrocodone (Vicodin), making it more difficult to prescribe and taking away automatic refill options.
Since 2013 to mid-2015, the number of prescriptions decreased greatly. The internet has been another way to access the painkillers. Research from the journal BMJ revealed that since the new regulations were put in place, more people are buying opioids online without a prescription. This is possible using software-encrypted online portals that permit illegal sales and elude regulators.
The study found that since 2014, the sale of opioid sales have increased about 4 percent on the dark web.
One of the study authors, Judith Aldridge, a professor of criminology at the University of Manchester in England, said that “Our team found that sales on the so-called ‘dark net’ of opioid prescription medications increased following the DEA’s initiative.”
Aldridge said that it was beyond the one type of medication. “This increase was not just observed for medications containing hydrocodone. We also saw increased dark-net sales for products much stronger opioids, like oxycodone and fentanyl.”
Investigators used software called “web crawler” to look at 31 cryptocurrency markets, or “cryptomarkets” that operated before and after new regulations. They found minimal changes to sales of sedatives, stimulants, steroids, or illegal opioids.
Investigators also found that dark web sales of prescription painkiller opioids had increased in sales in 2016, making up about 14 percent of sales. The investigators also found that more purchases were made for fentanyl and hydrocodone. Fentanyl had been the least popular dark web prescription opioids in 2014, but in 2016 it was the second most popular.
One difficulty with dark web sales, according to researchers, is that they are more complicated to monitor.