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Home > Silk Road, the virtual drug marketplace: a single case study of user experiences.

Van Hout, Marie Claire and Bingham, Tim (2013) Silk Road, the virtual drug marketplace: a single case study of user experiences. International Journal of Drug Policy , 24 , (5) , pp. 385-391. /10.1016/j.drugpo.2013.01.005.

Background: The online promotion of ‘drug shopping’ and user information networks is of increasing public health and law enforcement concern. An online drug marketplace called ‘Silk Road’ has been operating on the ‘Deep Web’ since February 2011 and was designed to revolutionise contemporary drug consumerism.

Methods: A single case study approach explored a ‘Silk Road’ user's motives for online drug purchasing, experiences of accessing and using the website, drug information sourcing, decision making and purchasing, outcomes and settings for use, and perspectives around security. The participant was recruited following a lengthy relationship building phase on the ‘Silk Road’ chat forum.

Results: The male participant described his motives, experiences of purchasing processes and drugs used from ‘Silk Road’. Consumer experiences on ‘Silk Road’ were described as ‘euphoric’ due to the wide choice of drugs available, relatively easy once navigating the Tor Browser (encryption software) and using ‘Bitcoins’ for transactions, and perceived as safer than negotiating illicit drug markets. Online researching of drug outcomes, particularly for new psychoactive substances was reported. Relationships between vendors and consumers were described as based on cyber levels of trust and professionalism, and supported by ‘stealth modes’, user feedback and resolution modes. The reality of his drug use was described as covert and solitary with psychonautic characteristics, which contrasted with his membership, participation and feelings of safety within the ‘Silk Road’ community.

Conclusion: ‘Silk Road’ as online drug marketplace presents an interesting displacement away from ‘traditional’ online and street sources of drug supply. Member support and harm reduction ethos within this virtual community maximises consumer decision-making and positive drug experiences, and minimises potential harms and consumer perceived risks. Future research is necessary to explore experiences and backgrounds of other users.


Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Date
March 2013
Identification #
/10.1016/j.drugpo.2013.01.005
Page Range
pp. 385-391
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume
24
Number
5
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)
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