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van der Gouwe D, Brunt TM, van Laar M, van der Pol P. 
“Purity, adulteration and price of drugs bought online versus offline in the Netherlands”. 
Addiction. 2017 Apr;112(4):640-648.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Online drug markets flourish and consumers have high expectations of online quality and drug value. The aim of this study was to i) describe online drug purchases, and ii) compare online with offline purchased drugs regarding purity, adulteration and price.

DESIGN: Comparison of lab analyses of 32,663 drug consumer samples (stimulants and hallucinogens) purchased between January 2013 and January 2016, of which 928 were bought online.

SETTING: The Netherlands.

MEASUREMENTS: Primary outcome measures were i) the percentage of samples purchased online, and ii) the chemical purity of powders (or dosage per tablet); adulteration; and the price per gram, blotter or tablet of drugs bought online compared with drugs bought offline.

FINDINGS: The proportion of drug samples purchased online increased from 1.4 in 2013 to 4.1 in 2015. The frequency varied widely, from a maximum of 6 for controlled, traditional substances (ecstasy tablets, MDMA powder, amphetamine powder, cocaine powder, 2C-B and LSD) to over a third for new psychoactive substances (NPS) (4-FA, 5/6-APB and MXE). There were no large differences in drug purity, yet small but statistically significant differences were found for 4-FA (online 59 versus offline 52 purity for 4-FA on average, p = .001), MDMA powders (45 versus 61 purity for MDMA, p = .02), 2C-B tablets (21 mg versus 10 mg 2C-B/tablet dosage, p = 0.49), and ecstasy tablets (131 mg versus 121 mg MDMA/tablet dosage, p = .05). The proportion of adulterated samples purchased online and offline did not differ, except for 4-FA, being less adulterated online (X2  = 8.3; p = < 0.001). Drug prices were mostly higher online, ranging for various drugs from 10 to 23 higher than that of drugs purchased offline (6/10 substances: p = <.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Dutch drug users increasingly purchase drugs online: new psychoactive substances in particular. Purity and adulteration do not vary considerably between drugs purchased online and offline for most substances, while online prices are mostly higher than offline prices. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Key Words: adulteration; cryptomarkets; darknet; dosage; drug markets; price; purity; quality; webshops
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