A pilot study investigating Silk Road, the anonymous online drug marketplace

  • Research program: New technologies and online interventions
  • Project status: Completed
  • Start date: February 2012
  • Expected end date: June 2016
  • Completion date: June 2016
  • Funded by: Unfunded
  • Lead organisation:

Online drug marketplaces are fast becoming an integral part of wider illicit drug exchange networks. Understanding how this new way of obtaining drugs impacts upon buyers is critical if we are to better understand the current context of illicit drug use and harms. This project aims to understand Silk Road use from a buyer’s perspective. People who had purchased drugs from Silk Road 1.0 were invited to complete anonymous, encrypted online interviews. The interviewsinvolved a life history approach to ascertain drug use trajectories and drug purchasing trajectories, allowing us to understand the contexts of Silk Road and other online drug purchasing without collecting identifying information. We also have an interest whether and how drug use and harms were affected by increased access and the availability of a wider range of substances through Silk Road.

Name & Contact Details Role Research Program Location
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Professor Simon Lenton
Tel: 61 (0)8 9266 1603
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Harm reduction policy and strategies


  • Principal Investigator: Monica Barratt, University of New South Wales
  • Co-investigator: Matthew Allen, Deakin University
  • Project staff: Alexia Maddox, Deakin University

Barratt, M., J., Lenton, S., Maddox, A. and Allen, M. (2016). ‘What if you live on top of a bakery and you like cakes?’ - Drug use and harm trajectories before, during and after the emergence of Silk Road. International Journal of Drug Policy, 35, pp. 50-57. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.04.006 [RJ1103] View web page

Maddox, A., Barratt, M., J., Allen, M. and Lenton, S. (2015). Constructive activism in the dark web: cryptomarkets and illicit drugs in the digital ‘demimonde’. Information, Communication & Society, 19, (1), pp. 111-126. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1093531 [RJ1102] View web page