Sales of prescription psychiatric drugs via darknet online drug markets have increased in the United Kingdom at an alarming rate, according to new research by the University of Kent and King's College London.
The research, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, collected digital trace data from 31 cryptomarkets in operation between September 2013 and July 2016. The data were analysed by country of origin and examined for trends in sales for 7 psychiatric drug groupings, based on their main indication or intended use in psychiatric practice.
The study found that, in the United Kingdom, the proportion of sales of sedatives increased by just under 1% per year over the study period to around 12% of all drugs sold via the darknet in the United Kingdom by 2016, behind drug groups such as cannabis, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-type products and cocaine. The researchers said this should alarm policy-makers and demonstrate an increasing interest in these products.
The United Kingdom accounted for almost a third of all sedatives sold on the darknet, not far behind the United States, which had the largest share at 41.4%. There was also evidence of a move towards increasing misuse of the potent sedative alprazolam in the United Kingdom, growing from 10% to a quarter of sedative sales over the study period.
Co-author, Dr. Jack Cunliffe from the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at Kent said: “Given that Xanax is not available in the United Kingdom on the NHS, the rising sales might have something to do with its notoriety in the United States, where its use is frequently glamorised in popular culture.”
He advised policy-makers to create strategies that react to these trends, especially if they wish to avoid a prescription drugs crisis similar to that which is occurring in the United States.