Listed for Sale: Analyzing Data on Fentanyl, Fentanyl Analogs and Other Novel Synthetic Opioids on One Cryptomarket

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The United States is facing a “triple wave” epidemic fueled by novel synthetic opioids. Cryptomarkets, anonymous marketplaces located on the deep web, play an increasingly important role in the distribution of illicit substances. This article presents the data collected and processed by the eDarkTrends platform concerning the availability trends of novel synthetic opioids listed on one cryptomarket. Methods: Listings from the DreamMarket cryptomarket “Opioids” and “Research Chemicals” sections were collected between March 2018 and January 2019. Collected data were processed using eDarkTrends Named Entity Recognition algorithm to identify opioid drugs, and to analyze their availability trends in terms of frequency of listings, available average weights, average prices, and geographic indicators of shipment origin and destination information. Results: 95,011 opioid-related listings were collected through 26 crawling sessions. 33 novel synthetic opioids were identified in 3.3 % of the collected listings. 44.7 % of these listings advertised fentanyl (pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical) or fentanyl analogs for an average of 2.8 kgs per crawl. “Synthetic heroin” accounted for 33.2 % of novel synthetic opioid listings for an average 1.1 kgs per crawl with 97.7 % of listings advertised as shipped from Canada. Other novel synthetic opioids (e.g., U-47,700, AP-237) represented 22 % of these listings for an average of 6.1 kgs per crawl with 97.2 % of listings advertised as shipped from China. Conclusions: Our data indicate consistent availability of a wide variety of novel synthetic opioids both in retail and wholesale-level amounts. Identification of new substances highlights the value of cryptomarket data for early warning systems of emerging substance use trends.



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