Buying darkweb drugs with crypto still a risk — even if you leave a review

A recent investigation by The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has found that just 65% of drugs purchased online using crypto contained the substances as advertised. This is despite a widely-held perception that illicit drugs bought in this way are likely to be of higher quality and therefore ‘safer.’

RMIT University, working in conjunction with the Australian National University, The University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), and Canadian testing facility Get Your Drugs Tested, collected 103 samples of drugs from a darknet forum called Test4Pay and analyzed them for purity and substituted substances.

The research — reportedly carried out using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy with immunoassay strip tests — discovered that just 65% of the drugs purchased were as listed while 21% contained a completely different substance, and 14% contained the advertised drug mixed with other chemicals.

Drugs such as cocaine, ketamine, 2C-B, and alprazolam were most likely to be switched out for other chemicals, while MDMA, methamphetamine, and heroin were usually found to contain only the advertised substance.

Drugs sold for crypto not quite 5-star

As reported by the Medical Press, the study’s Lead researcher Dr. Monica Barratt expressed concern at the investigation’s results as they contradict the commonly-held belief that drugs bought through crypto markets were unlikely to be cut or replaced with other drugs.  

“Cryptomarkets allow anonymous buyers to review purchases, which theoretically means vendors who sell inferior products are more likely to receive bad reviews, thereby rewarding vendors selling superior products,” said Barratt.

However, she added, “Despite this perception of accountability and quality, our findings show prohibited drugs purchased from crypto markets are still not safe from adulteration and substitution.”

Read more: Serbian guilty of running $18M crypto drugs market

Drugs are often mixed with other substances in an attempt to maximize profits. For instance, a package of drugs may fetch a higher price if an added substance increases the weight and perceived amount of drugs being sold. 

Barret is in favor of more drug-checking services in Australia but questioned the country’s appetite to implement such measures. “Australia’s resistance to opening more drug-checking facilities stems from an assumption that drug checking ‘green lights’ drug use,” she said.

“What the service can do is explain the known risks of specific drugs, in a credible and non-judgemental way, enabling people who use drugs to adjust their behavior to reduce risk.”

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