“Etazene, safer than heroin and fentanyl”: Non-fentanyl novel synthetic opioid listings on one darknet market

Francois R. Lamy, Raminta Daniulaityte, Monica J. Barratt, Usha Lokala, Amit Sheth, Robert G. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Novel synthetic opioids are fueling the overdose deaths epidemic in North America.Recently, non-fentanyl novel synthetic opioids have emerged in forensic toxicological results. Cryptomarkets have become important platforms of distribution for illicit substances. This article presents the data concerning the availability trends of novel non-fentanyl synthetic opioids listed on one cryptomarket. Methods: Listings from the EmpireMarket cryptomarket “Opiates” section were collected between June 2020 and August 2020. Collected data were processed using eDarkTrends Named Entity Recognition algorithm to identify novel synthetic opioids, and to analyze their availability trends in terms of frequency of listings, available average weights, average prices, quantity sold, and geographic indicators of shipment origin and destination information. Results: 35,196 opioid-related listings were collected through 12 crawling sessions. 17 nonfentanyl novel synthetic opioids were identified in 2.9 % of the collected listings for an average of 9.2 kg of substance available at each data point. 587 items advertised as non-fentanyl novel synthetic opioids were sold on EmpireMarket for a total weight of between 858 g and 2.7 kg during the study period. 45.5 % of these listings were advertised as shipped from China. Conclusions: Fourteen of the 17 non-fentanyl novel synthetic opioids were identified for the first time on one large cryptomarket suggesting a shift in terms of novel non-fentanyl synthetic opioids availability. This increased heterogeneity of available novel synthetic opioids could reduce the efficiency of existing overdose prevention strategies. Identification of new opioids underpins the value of cryptomarket data for early warning systems of emerging substance use trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108790
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume225
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

Keywords

  • Cryptomarkets
  • Darknet markets
  • Synthetic opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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