The number of drug takers in England obtaining drugs on the dark net has more than doubled in the past five years, according to The Global Drugs Survey.
It’s founder, Dr Adam Winstock, says people do not understand the risks involved in buying drugs online.
“If you’ve given your name, somebody knows you’ve bought illicit drugs,” he said.
“And then there’s a possibility that they will blackmail you.”
The dark net is a network of untraceable online activity and hidden websites. Obtaining drugs on the dark net is illegal and dangerous for your health.
In addition to the illegality, an investigation by the BBC podcast The Next Episode found hundreds of people claiming to have been scammed or blackmailed by vendors while trying to obtain drugs on the dark net.
Leon is one of them.
“I got a very angry and threatening message saying ‘I’ve got your address’ and threatening to either release it, show up there, or send something nasty. This was someone who was a crack and heroin seller.
Leon understands that buying drugs on the dark net is illegal.
“Obviously I don’t have any consumer protections legally.”
In recent months the National Crime Agency, the organisation tasked with policing the dark net in the UK, has helped shut down several large dark net market places.
But there’s been criticism that that approach actually leads to more people being blackmailed.
Caleb Daniels is a crypto-market expert: “What we are seeing is a perfect storm.
“More users are going online whilst untested sites are popping up.
“This leaves users vulnerable to blackmail.”
The National Crime Agency claims “tackling the cybercrime threat is a priority”.
“We have had lots of operational successes and have led a number of investigations into criminal activity on the dark web, which have resulted in individuals being convicted/ facing lengthy prison sentences.
“We would encourage anyone who is a victim of crime to report it to the authorities,” a spokesperson said.
But Chris Monteiro, a dark net expert, argues the NCA isn’t doing enough.
“Drug dealing on the dark net is not a priority for the police,” he said.
“The police are limited in what they can do and ill-equipped to deal with issues on the dark net.”
The Global Drugs Survey annually collects data from drug users. It surveyed 60,000 drug users from 20 countries about obtaining drugs on the dark net.
According to its data, the number of drug users in England obtaining drugs on the dark net has gone up from 12.4% to nearly 28.6% in the past five years. This is not a nationally representative sample.
England is the second highest purchaser of drugs on the dark net. Read the full report here.