2019-2020 & Cryptodrug

From the alley to the web. The rise of illicit drug trade on cryptomarkets and the involvement of belgian buyers and vendors (CRYPTODRUG)

Founding : Belespo

Coordinator : Charlotte Colman (UGent, Department of Criminology, Criminal Law & Social Law)

Partners :

- Marie-Sophie Devresse (UClouvain)
- Antoon Bronselaer (UGent, Department of Telecommunications & information processing)

Subcontracting :

- Tina Van Havere (University College of Ghent)

Researchers : Sacha Piron (Uclouvain) - Geert Slabbekoorn (UGent) - Yoram.Timmerman (UGent)

Summary :

The illicit trade on cryptomarkets -online anonymous marketplaces- has only fairly recently come to the attention of academics, policy makers and the general public. These markets offer a wide range of, mainly illicit, products and services, but illicit drugs make up the large majority of products available. Given the large amount of cryptomarkets, illicit drug buyers could choose between various listings and vendors of varying size and type. While these cryptomarkets continue to grow, they might open the market up to a wider audience or influence the drug careers of individual users. Recent data from the Global Drugs Survey (2016) indicated that 5% of those accessing cryptomarkets, did not consume drugs prior to accessing them and 32.1% reported accessing a wider range of drugs than they had previously. This suggests that cryptomarkets may influence individual drug careers, including onset, frequency, intensity, escalation, switching, expansion, substitution and recovery.

Cryptomarkets offer an unprecedented opportunity to study a drug market in its totality and to monitor new trends in drug availability and use. In contrast to offline drug markets, drug trade on cryptomarkets is visible. Some institutions have rightly jumped on this bandwagon by producing trend reports, such as the National Drug & Alcohol Research Cente, shedding light on the phenomenon from an Australian involvement. Additionally, some national Ministries, such as The Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice, commission scientific studies to get insight on the phenomenon in a particular country. To date, no studies on cryptomarkets exist targeting Belgian buyers and vendors. As such, we do not possess scientific evidence to understand the size and profile of Belgian vendors on cryptomarkets, nor the evolutions in drug using careers, experiences, rationale and motives of the Belgian population sourcing illicit drugs from cryptomarkets. Empirical data on cryptomarkets from a Belgian perspective are urgently required. Therefore, we have carried out a short-term multidisciplinary project in which we will shed a first explorative, yet necessary, light on Belgian users and vendors on cryptomarkets to begin to fill this blind spot.

Publishing : COLMAN Ch., BRONSELAER A., DEVRESSE M-S, SLABBEKOORN G., PIRON S., TIMMERMAN Y. (2020), From the alley to the web. Belgian involvement on drug cryptomarkets, Antwerp – Apeldoorn – Portland, Maklu, IRCP research series, vol. 57, 204 p.