A quick Google search of popular narcotics such as OxyContin will bring up a plethora of deep web sites accessed by Tor browsers where teens can buy drugs without a prescription. A recent study by Columbia University found that over 85% of online pharmacies do not require a prescription or proof of age. The main reason is that the profit margin for these sites are huge. A recent Study revealed that online pharmacies on the deep web generates anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 a day in sales. This type of revenue causes drug manufactures to seek out teens to bring in even more profit.
How Online Illegal Pharmacies Recruit Teens
On a recent episode of the Digital Parent Podcast, Dr. Tim Mackey discussed his recent study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research “Establishing a Link Between Prescription Drug Abuse and Illicit online Pharmacies: Analysis of Twitter Data.” The study found the following results for Non Medical Use of Prescription Medication (NUPM):
This study examined the association between Twitter content, NUPM behavior promotion, and online access to drugs using a broad set of prescription drug keywords. Initial results are concerning, as our study found over 45,000 tweets that directly promoted NUPM by providing a URL that actively marketed the illegal online sale of prescription drugs of abuse. Additional research is needed to further establish the link between Twitter content and NUPM, as well as to help inform future technology-based tools, online health promotion activities, and public policy to combat NUPM online.
The study summarized how drug companies target teens on social media sites such as Twitter. Unlike selfie based sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, few parents understand how to use Twitter. It’s one the least monitored social websites due to parent’s lack of knowledge on how to communicate on the site. The low presence of parents on Twitter provide opportunity for illegal pharmacies to target teens. According to Dr. Mackey, illicit pharmacies can be created and operational within 20 minutes. As soon as the FBI and other law enforcement agencies shuts down a site such as Silk Road a copy cat site is created within hours to keep up with the demand.
How Teens Use Tor to Hide Online Purchase From Parents
Once teens are introduced to illegal pharmacies on Twitter, they have to find a way to hide their illegal purchases from their parents and authorities. Most teens have to turn to the Dark net in order to hide their search for online drugs. Online pharmacies on the dark net can only be located by using Tor. Tor is an internet browser that was used by the government to protect intelligence agencies like the CIA to conduct covert operations in foreign countries. Now Tor is a downloaded bundle that anyone can use to protect their identity on line. Tor allows the user to have complete anonymity by sending web communication through multiple anonymizing networks. Tor can be downloaded on a jump drive which allows teens to transports the browsers to different locations in order to purchase drugs. Here are some screen shots of the TOR browser and the welcome screen once downloaded.
Here is a twitter conversation between some teens regarding down loading the Tor Browser
@natervader13 do you have any working links ?? I've been looking for some
— Scum (@scumdere) March 27, 2016
@scumdere all the stuff it uses for the browser are installed in one spot already so telling it to go on the thumb basically is a portable
— Nate the Nazi (@natervader13) March 27, 2016
The Risk of Online Drug Sales
Purchasing online drugs on the darknet through the Tor browser allows teens and young adults to obtain drugs in a safe way. There is no need to travel to a drug infested neighborhood with high crime rates to meet drug dealers or plugs to locate drugs. Online drug purchases also prevents the buyer from being robbed in person. This elimination of face to face safety risk have caused online illegal drug pharmacies to flourish.
The real danger from these online pharmacies come from lax drug standards from foreign countries like the Ukraine. Most drug manufacturers from foreign countries do not have a governing agency such as the FDA, which allows drug manufacturers to add all sorts of dangerous additives to their product in order to increase sales. There is no regulation on the use of chemical additives or synthetics that can pose danger. The bottom line is that teens do not know what they are purchasing online. Most websites are skilled in manufacturing fake online reviews for their products to give the illusion that the drugs are pure and risk free.
How to Determine if Your Child is Ordering Drugs
Below are some tips to monitor if your child or someone else is purchasing online drugs.
1. Look for Behavior Change– Make sure to read the body language of your child. Look for some of the physical cues below:
a. eyes void of a presence
b. dilated pupils
c. excessive perspiration
d. body odor
2. Change in Peers- Your childs starts hanging out with a new set of peers. Teens that are known for getting into trouble.
3. Monitor Computer– Search their tablet, laptops, desktops, phones, etc to determine if the Tor browser has been downloaded.
4. Check the mail- If you child is constantly checking the mail then investigate. All illegal online drugs are shipped through USPS, UPS, or FEDEX.
5. Check your Credit Card statement– Look for online purchases from random websites.
6. Search for Gift Cards– Search your child’s room and trash can for gift cards