An island apart? Risks and prices in the Australian cryptomarket drug trade

Jack Cunliffe, James Martin, David Décary-Hétu, Judith Aldridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Australia has a reputation as an anomaly with regard to cryptomarket drug trading, with seemingly disproportionately high levels of activity given its relatively small size, high prices and anecdotal accounts of it being a destination where many foreign-based vendors will not sell. This paper aims to investigate these claims from a risk and prices perspective.

Methods: By analysing data for over 60,000 drug products available for purchase from eight cryptomarkets in January 2016 this work builds a descriptive picture of the Australian online market in comparison to the rest of the world, before moving onto analyse the prices of drugs available to Australian consumers, both online and though conventional drug supply routes.

Results: Results show that the Australian online illicit drugs market is of considerable size, internally isolated and with methamphetamine sales being particularly large by comparison to other countries. Australian cryptomarket vendors sell drugs at significantly higher prices than those listed by their foreign counterparts. Online prices are however broadly comparable to street prices, with the exception of methamphetamine where prices appear to be much lower online.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that the perceived stringency of Australian border protection inadvertently increases the competitiveness and local market share of domestic cryptomarket vendors via a consumer side ‘risk tariff’, challenging the traditionally vendor-oriented drugs risk and prices framework.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-73
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • cryptomarkets
  • Australia
  • illicit drugs
  • risks and prices
  • methamphetamine
  • digital trace methodology
  • risk tariff
  • drug prices
  • darknet markets


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