The Dark Web of Online Drug Sales

Several years ago, about the only way the internet was involved in the sales and use of drugs was through fraudulent internet pharmacies. A large number of these companies sprang up across the US and around the world, selling prescription drugs (often counterfeit) without asking for a prescription from a doctor.

shutdown notice of dark web silk road site

It took awhile, but most of these companies operating in or delivering to the US have been shut down. There are still online pharmacies in existence, but now most of the ones operating in the US are legitimate pharmacies registered with their states and operating within the law.

While that was happening, however, a new online world of drug sales grew to fairly massive proportions. And this world has entirely new and ominous characteristics.

According to a new report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMDCCA), a new generation of websites offering illicit drugs for sale present a new and growing threat. The Silk Road online drug sales forum is one example of this kind of threat. This website sold both pharmaceutical and illicit drugs to anyone who could pay.

The Silk Road, which was shut down by the FBI and other agencies in 2014, was invisible to the traditional indexing services offered by Google and similar search engines, as are many similar sites. To gain access, you usually have to receive an invitation, courtesy of someone who is already accepted there. One guide to online drug sales notes that drug-selling sites Agora and Evolution have more than 13,000 listings for drugs.

This hidden world of online drug sales is referred to as the “dark web.” This EMDCCA report notes that there are now 20 of these hidden drug sites in existence. Transactions are usually cloaked in anonymity and are paid with bitcoins, an internet-based form of payment that can also be anonymous.

Another World on Your Phone

Pot finder app

While the dark web has spread insidious tentacles around the world, a whole new world of drug-related applications for phones or other electronic devices has arrived. For this article, a search was made for drug-related applications that work on Android devices but apps exist for every major operating system utilized by phones and tablets.

Interested in marijuana? There are more than 180 applications related to pot. For example, finding marijuana dispensaries around you, marijuana slang, growers’ guides, services for finding employment in this field and games like Drug Dealer Bash, which states, “Sell marijuana, cocaine, and pills to friends while avoiding police.”

If you search for heroin, there are not nearly as many apps but you could choose Dope Wars: Illegal Life which lets you “Explore the fully interactive city, make sales, manufacture grams, bag-up, commit burglaries, evade police, manage streets, hire workers & much more.” There’s a Painkiller Calculator that helps you convert dosages from hydrocodone to the far more powerful fentanyl, for example. And there’s Heroin Hero, that invites you to chase a dragon while you inject yourself with heroin. If you catch the dragon, you get more doses.

Search for cocaine-related apps, and you can get one that provides images of lines of cocaine that you can pretend to snort right off your phone’s touchscreen. There are other apps for other illicit drugs as well.

Just to balance the scales, there are also plenty of apps that offer ways to get support while you are in recovery, such as guides to find support groups in your areas, positive advice and motivation for staying sober and apps that will connect you with a drug addiction counselor immediately.

The Online World is, as Always, a Minefield

The internet offers a vast and rich array of resources, but as always, there have been pits any susceptible person can fall into. It’s hard to imagine a person in recovery from cocaine addiction staying sober if they have a cocaine-snorting simulation on their phone. Law enforcement agencies work hard to put drug-selling companies operating on the darknet out of business but it takes time.

There is a way we can all help put these companies out of business and that’s by reducing the demand. Everyone can do their part in keeping young people from ever starting with drugs. Many of our resources to help parents and other adults with this task are available at

If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, help them find rehab. At Narconon centers around the world, it’s possible to achieve lasting sobriety, no matter how severe the struggle has been or how long it has lasted.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.