A statement from the university pointed out that carfentanil was not meant for human use and was originally meant for sedating elephants.
ANU researchers collected data from the dark web for 51 days in January and February 2019, analysing six mainstream dark web markets. More than 123,000 unique drug listings were online with nearly 7400 opioids listed in six “Main Street” dark web markets.
Professor Roderic Broadhurst of the ANU Cybercrime Observatory, the lead author of the study, said: “We are on the brink of a new opioid epidemic driven by synthetics like fentanyl and carfentanil that are driving a greater risk of overdose deaths.
“There are fewer sellers selling big amounts and many sellers selling small amounts and it is in such small amounts, it makes it easy to move. It is like ants moving houses and extremely profitable.”
A range of potent drugs for sale on the dark web.
Millions of doses were found on the dark web each day, with an average of 15 to 22 kilograms for sale.
"Fentanyl is a designer synthetic opioid about 100 times more powerful than morphine,” said Professor Broadhurst. “The average dose of fentanyl is 200 micrograms. We found millions of doses of fentanyl available to buy every day.
“Carfentanil is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and there are alarming amounts of it available online. We were shocked by the amount of carfentanil we found. Billions of doses are available online on any day.”
Professor Broadhurst said fentanyl was used to lace heroin and synthetic heroin. “Fentanyl used to be limited to the anaesthetic world. It is a powerful, but short acting knock-out drug, but it has now crept into general use as a recreational opioid,” he said.
“Some users are also addicted from previous pain relief prescription use. Fentanyl dealers could do a Breaking Bad and make it in their own kitchen but carfentanil is so dangerous it is a bio-hazard.”
Key findings from the study:
- Data collected daily from six dark web markets between 2 January and 23 February revealed the amount, types and physical forms of fentanyl available.
- Of more than 123,000 unique drug listings identified, nearly 7400 were opioids.
- A total of 439 of all drugs listed (0.347%) were fentanyl products.
- Between 15 and 22 kilograms of fentanyl were available on any day and the average price per gram varied between $30 and $301.
- Over half the drugs available were listed on “main street” dark web market Wall Street.
- Fentanyl-laced products were listed under colloquial names such as Apache, China White, Bear and TNT.
- It came in five physical forms tablets, powder, solutions, and sprays. Patches and powder dominate.
Photos: courtesy Australian National University