Digital Currency and Fentanyl, New Elements of 21st-Century Drug Trafficking


Any change in how illicit drugs are bought and sold should be made public knowledge to the American people, so they can guard against it. One recent news story highlights how drug trafficking in 2022 looks quite different than in previous years.

Recent News Shows How Drug Dealing has Changed in the 21st Century

A November 9th, 2022, Associated Press report highlighted an international case in which the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned foreign individuals for their role in trafficking illicit fentanyl. According to the report, Alex Adrianus Martinus Peijnenburg and Martinus Pterus Henri De Koning (from the Netherlands) and Matthew Simon Grimm (from the United Kingdom) were accused of using their nine businesses to sell illicit fentanyl to American customers. Further, the accused were able to hide the transactions for so long because they only sold to U.S. customers who used cryptocurrency to pay for the drugs.

Dark businessmen
Photo by blindfire/

According to the Treasury Department, the accused sold the potent opioid fentanyl to American customers between November 2018 and February 2021, generating millions of dollars in cryptocurrency before the scheme was discovered. The accused men used their businesses as fronts for drug trafficking and operated a secretive website to sell fentanyl.

While the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Homeland Security assisted in the investigations, the Treasury Department was responsible for the bust. According to Brian Nelson, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, “The Treasury Department will continue to deploy its counternarcotics authorities to disrupt those involved in the fentanyl global supply chain… as we take further action to counter the abuse of virtual currency.” Mr. Nelson’s commentary serves as a reminder of how widespread drug trafficking is and how drug dealers and addicts alike will use a variety of avenues to produce and procure mind-altering substances.

Increased Access to Drugs Will Lead to Addiction and Death

Increasingly, illicit fentanyl has become a leading cause of fatal drug overdoses in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 59.8% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl in 2017, compared to 14.3% in 2010.


The Drug Enforcement Administration now reports that, as of 2021, fentanyl is the leading cause of drug-related death in America, the culprit in more fatal overdoses than all other drug types combined. The DEA has also warned that drug manufacturers, dealers, and traffickers are increasingly adding fentanyl to other drug supplies, like cocaine, meth, and counterfeit opioid pills. This is because fentanyl’s added potency creates a more addictive drug and will cause addicts to return for more.

Of course, a more potent, more addictive drug is also more likely to be lethal.

Given the increasing availability of fentanyl, whether purchased in-person from a local drug dealer or purchased using cryptocurrency online and then receiving the fentanyl in the mail, American addicts are more at risk of exposure to this highly toxic, easily fatal drug. With that in mind, families must reaffirm their commitments to helping their addicted loved ones enter qualified, residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers.

New Ways for Addicts to Get Drugs Provide Greater Incentive for Families to Get Their Loved Ones Help

Young man is hiding computer from mother

The recent news story highlighted in the above sections is a stark reminder of how easy it is for addicts to get drugs. Today, addicts can order drugs online and use PayPal, Venmo, or crypto-currency to pay for them. Drugs can be shipped to the addict’s home in discreet packaging, essentially allowing users to obtain dangerous, mind-altering substances without ever having to leave their homes. Even if they have roommates or live with family, drug procurement in the 21st century is so difficult to monitor that addicts can receive drugs at home without others they live with ever noticing.

There is no question that increased access to addictive substances puts addicts at higher risk for overdose and death. Because of such developments, family members of addicts should do everything they can to get their loved ones help. Qualified residential drug and alcohol rehab centers provide addicts with a path out of the addiction nightmare. If you know someone who is struggling, please make sure they get help as soon as possible.


  • A.P. “Dutch, U.K. fentanyl sellers hit with Treasury sanctions.” Associated Press, 2022.
  • NIDA. “Overdose Death Rates.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2022.
  • DEA. “Fentanyl Awareness.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2022.



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.