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Online purchase of drugs more popular in Finland than elsewhere

About a half of those responding to a drug use survey said they had bought illegal substances in the darknet.

Image: Brandon Marshall / AOP

Finns are more likely to buy illegal drugs online than people in any other country. A new report by Global Drug Survey shows that close to a half of the respondents in Finland say they bought drugs online through Tor, a hidden web browser that enables anonymous communication.

The report shows that 46 percent of the surveyed in Finland had bought illegal substances on the hidden web. In comparison, the figure was 25 percent in England, 18 percent in the US, 7 in Germany and 5 in Denmark.

The report shows that the most popular drugs that Finns buy online are cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamine, LSD and mushrooms.

About 10,000 persons or devices are connected to Tor at any time, says information security expert Juha Nurmi.

“Of course that does not tell us what the network is being used for. Many use it for legal ends,” Nurmi adds. The survey showed that the respondents using Tor most often were urban young men.

According to Nurmi, the use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to pay for purchases is common, which makes it difficult to track such transactions. "Any young person with some IT-skills can learn how to use bitcoin," says Nurmi.

Benefits of darknet

The fact that drug dealing takes place on the hidden web can also have benefits, says Miina Kajos from the A-Clinic Foundation that works to reduce substance abuse.

“Peer reviews of buyers and sellers may reduce the risk of scams, and by using darknet no user is forced to meet criminals face to face,” she says.

Kajos is currently heading a project that will start to offer advisory services for drug users on the hidden web. “For example, if a particularly dangerous substance comes on the market, we will be in a position to warn users,” she adds.

Police is not powerless

The police is interested in online drug trafficking even though monitoring it is extremely difficult.

However the authorities are not powerless as the drugs themselves still move in the physical world, Nurmi says. “For instance, Customs can snatch a delivery or the police can raid a logistics center,” he adds.

The Global Drug Survey is published by an independent research organisation that aims to help lawmakers and health care professionals. At the same time, the group wants to make drug use safer. As a result, the survey targets consumers of illegal substances, and in Finland it is distributed by the A-Clinic Foundation.

"It is good that the survey looks at the consumers of illegal substances themselves," Kajos from the A-clinic says. "Most surveys study the whole population, which tends to draw attention to cannabis only."