Dark web drug dealers are choosing to ban deadly fentanyl, National Crime Agency says

Synthetic opioid has claimed lives of 160 users in the UK in just 18 months

Colin Drury
Saturday 01 December 2018 18:57 GMT

Drug suppliers on the dark web have voluntarily started to ban the synthetic opioid fentanyl because they believe it is too dangerous, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.

Major operators have stopped selling the high-strength painkiller because of the sheer number of fatalities that have been linked to it, Vince O’Brien, one of the NCA’s leads on drugs, has claimed.

Fentanyl can be up to 100 times stronger than heroin and can easily cause accidental overdoses.

It is believed to have killed around 160 people in the UK since it was introduced here from the US some 18 months ago.

Now Mr O’Brien said several dealing websites appeared to have “de-listed” the substance because selling a drug so commonly linked with fatalities was more likely to see them investigated by police and law enforcement.

He told the Observer: “If they’ve got people selling very high-risk commodities then it’s going to increase the risk to them. There are marketplaces that will not accept listings for weapons and explosives – those are the ones that will not accept listings for fentanyl. Clearly, law enforcement would prioritise the supply of weapons, explosives and fentanyl over, for example, class C drugs – and that might well be why they do this.

“There are also drug users on the dark web who say on forums that they don’t think it’s right that people are selling fentanyl because it is dangerous and kills a lot of people.”

In the US, the substance has replaced heroin in many major drug markets, leading to a spike in overdose deaths: more than 29,000 last year.

Mr O’Brien said that the NCA is working with US law enforcement agencies to prevent the UK from undergoing a similar epidemic.

He said: “We are working closely with international partners in terms of how the threat developed there. It’s an emerging new drug, a threat we’re taken very seriously because of what happened in the US.

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“Every time we take down a dark web vendor we follow up with customers, and when we have done that, a number are turning up dead – there’s a real cautionary tale there.”

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