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Relevance of cryptomarkets, characteristics of purchasers and possibilities for survey research: experience from the European Web Survey on Drugs

Julian Strizek (Competence Center Addiction, Gesundheit Österreich GmbH, Vienna, Austria)
Alexandra Karden (Suchthilfe Wien gGmbH, checkit!, Vienna, Austria)
João Matias (Trends and Analysis – Public Health Unit, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Lisbon, Portugal)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 30 October 2020

Issue publication date: 19 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to assess the relevance of cryptomarkets, characteristics of purchasers and possibilities for survey research by approaching users directly on cryptomarkets.


Cross-country comparison of the results from the European Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD) and summarizing lessons learned during the data collection was carried out.


Purchasers of drugs on cryptomarkets are still a rather small segment of all drug purchasers, and most people who use cryptomarkets also use other sources of supply to buy drugs. The percentage of people using cryptomarkets is unevenly distributed across countries and substances. Purchasers on cryptomarkets in most countries are more likely to be men and more likely, on average, to use more substances. Other characteristics such as age or place of residence do not show a consistent pattern across countries. Recruitment of respondents on cryptomarkets calls for specific techniques and procedures. Specific attention should be paid to build trust and guarantee credibility and anonymity.

Research limitations/implications

Interpretation of the quantitative results is limited by nonprobabilistic sampling and different recruitment strategies in different countries.

Practical implications

Users of cryptomarkets show some specific characteristics, providing a challenge for research and prevention agencies to keep up with digital technology. Increasing knowledge about characteristics of users of cryptomarkets may help to create adequate responses for harm reduction measures in different supply settings. However, collecting self-reported data from users on cryptomarkets is limited owing to significant privacy concerns and requires specific skills and strategies.


The EWSD provides a rare opportunity for detailed analyses of consumption patterns and characteristics of active drug users across several European countries. Furthermore, experiences of a new recruitment strategy are discussed.



A first draft of this article was supported by a publication grant provided by the European Monitoring Center for Drug and Drug Addicion (grant number CT.18.HEA.0099.1.0).


Strizek, J., Karden, A. and Matias, J. (2021), "Relevance of cryptomarkets, characteristics of purchasers and possibilities for survey research: experience from the European Web Survey on Drugs", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 102-111.



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