Drug War

Silk Road Drugs: MDMA Most Popular, Lots of Prescription Meds, And More Data



Daryl Lau, a self-described "computer stuff" guy, has a knack for gathering and assembling interesting data. In the past he made a map of the world's supply of burgundy. This week, he turned his attention Silk Road 2.0, one of the most popular black marketplaces on the deep web.

Based on the National Institute for Drug Abuse's list of most widely used illegal drugs, he put together a list of the top nine, and scraped Silk Road for information.

MDMA, also known as "Molly" in its pure form or "ecstasy" when adulterated, by far had the most listings at 1,321. Marijuana came in second with 761 listings, followed by LSD and cocaine. All nine popular illicit drugs only accounted for 3,585 listings, though. Lau points out that, "To put things in perspective, at the moment of writing this SR [Silk Road] has approximately 13,000 listings for drugs," which leads him to conclude that "prescription drugs account for a large portion of SR drug listings."

MDMA is popular at music festivals, and finding a reputable seller (or, on the flip side, being recognized as a reputable seller) is important – a lifesaver, even – since MDMA is frequently cut with other drugs, like bath salts, and a number of concertgoers have died of overdoses due to impurities.  As such, it's not a huge surprise that Lau found 48 of the 100 most reviewed items were MDMA. Though, proportionately, marijuana has more reviews per listing.

Daryl Lau

"The average price of the top 100 items is $129," writes Lau, but his data analytics tool did not determine the quantity of each item, so the number is deprived of some significant context. "If we sum up all the product reviews x product prices, we get a huge number of USD $20,668,330.05." 

Due to its anonymity, Bitcoin is the only currency Silk Road permits, so Lau's estimates are converted from Bitcoin's value at the time of the research.

So, who's selling all these drugs? America is number one, with 93 sellers. Australia came in second with 45 sellers, and Great Britain was third with 40.

Lau explains that he did this project "simply [as] a collection of observations," and that it's not over yet: "I've set up a cron-type job to crawl SR daily and crunch some numbers. It will be interesting to see how things change over time, though a month may not be enough time to see any significant shifts." His next report "will focus on pricing, trends and predictions."

Silk Road used to be substantially larger, but it was shut down by the FBI last year. Now, the largest (by a hair) and fastest growing online black market bazaar is Agora. A convenient way of to search these sites is the deep web's new equivalent to Google, called Grams

NEXT: Calif. Employee Pensions Are Not Sacred Cows, Judge Rules. But Don't Call the Slaughterhouse Just Yet.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Zenon,

    There are some Government types at the door, they want to speak to you….Oh, their windbreakers have DE…something, on them.

    1. They’ll never take me alive.

  2. “Based off?” No. It’s “based on.” *sigh*

    1. Was “based on.” “Off” is a mental speed bump for me, too, but it’s becoming quite popular. It seems reasonable that something is on its base; but then it can be taken off its base.

      Cf. “profit on” becoming “profit off [of]” and “different from” becoming “different to.”


      …he turned his attention Silk Road 2.0 …

      Missing preposition.

  3. other drugs, like bath salts

    Stop saying “bath salts”. People have known what is actually in that stuff for years now. It’s just idiotic to still be calling it “bath salts”. Unless they are actually cutting stuff with magnesium sulphate.

  4. MDMA, also known as “Molly” in its pure form or “ecstasy” when adulterated

    I’m no expert, but I have never heard of this distinction. AFAIK all three terms refer to the same thing, regardless of purity.

    1. Actually, that is the concept of Molly. Molly = molecular MDMA (Molly – Molecular). This separates it from ecstasy which everyone knows has other assorted junk in it.

      But, I think the quotes are in the wrong place. It should probably say, “MDMA, also known as Molly in its ‘pure form'”. Because, the reality is that the stuff sold as Molly is just as likely to have other junk in it.

  5. The score so far;

    -1 for ‘based off’
    -1 for ‘bath salts’
    -1 for ‘Molly/MDMA’

    I’m casting a -1 for ‘deep web’. It’s no deeper than the regular web and only marginally darker.

  6. I don’t get how this works without massive busting.

    I’ve looked on Reddit where people talk about getting started in the dark-market dealing, and the advice is screwy. I have a hard time believing that 10s of thousands of people are using abandoned mail boxes to get drugs sent to them, which leads me to believe they are having the stuff delivered to their house.

    And that makes me ask how every one of these people isn’t getting busted.

  7. Due to its anonymity, Bitcoin is the only currency Silk Road permits

    Anonymity & Security

    While using bitcoins is an excellent way to make your purchases, donations, and p2p payments, without losing money through inflated transaction fees, transactions are never truly anonymous. [emphasis mine]

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.