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A market on both ‘sides’ of the law: the use of the hidden web for the sale of new psychoactive substances

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2596
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology : Clinical and Experimental
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jun 2017
Accepted/In press20 Mar 2017
E-pub ahead of print15 Jun 2017


King's Authors



The hidden Web is used for the anonymous sale of drugs, and with the UK Psychoactive Substances Act, 2016, implemented on May 26th 2016; it could increase as a platform for obtaining new psychoactive substances (NPS).

This study aims to describe the NPS market on the visible and hidden Web preban, and assess whether the hidden Web is a likely place for the sale of NPS postban.


Data collection of 113 online shops took place in October 2015. Data collection of 22 cryptomarkets took place every 2 months from October 2015 to 2016 as part of the CASSANDRA project.


All online shops with a UK domain location sold NPS that were uncontrolled by the UK Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971, and closed after the ban. Of the cryptomarkets analysed, the total number of vendors selling NPS, number of substances, and listings advertised, all increased over the year. The majority of the NPS advertised on the hidden Web were phenethylamines and cathinones, yet the majority of uncontrolled NPS were synthetic cannabinoids.


Vendors selling and availability of NPS increased over the 12 months of data collection. Potential displacement from the visible Web to hidden Web should be taken into consideration.

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