Online trafficking of synthetic drugs

Facts and figures

The Internet is becoming increasingly popular among individuals and organised crime groups as a platform for trafficking synthetic drugs. The role of the Internet in the facilitation of trafficking has gained attention since the closure of several Clearnet and darknet websites, also known as marketplaces. Synthetic drugs are sold on social media, Clearnet websites and the darknet. Online trafficking may have a significant impact on the overall trafficking of drugs.

Some of the key reasons for trafficking synthetic drugs online include:

  1. Greater anonymity: With the use of anonymising technologies, such as encryption, VPNs, proxies, etc., criminals evade lawful detection as it is difficult to trace and identify perpetrators.  
  2. Global outreach: The Internet allows criminals to increase their visibility and reach a wider customer base. Furthermore, it facilitates anonymous communication between vendor and buyer, obviating the need for face-to-face interaction.
  3. Easily accessible forum for sharing knowledge and experience: The Internet contains a vast amount of information about drugs. Harmful knowledge such as drug preparation manuals, methods for acquiring illegal precursor chemicals, distribution services, money transfer services and concealment procedures to avoid law enforcement detection is readily available.
In the ecosystem of online trafficking, there are several actors with different modes of operation:


Administrators: Administrators are responsible for ensuring that a marketplace runs efficiently.


Vendors: Vendors are drug suppliers who sell their products on the marketplace. They usually do this by setting up their own seller pages.


Buyers: Buyers are the individuals who buy the drugs advertised. Buyers also provide feedback after making purchases and engage in discussions on various blogs and forums.


Mules: Mules are those who deliver the drugs to their destination.