DDN February 2021 DDN February 2021 - Page 13

‘ menu ’ of products available and whether COVID-19 had limited the number . Again , surprisingly he stated that new substances such as 4f-mar and ‘ Isophenidate ’ were being acquired . This probably refers to isopropylphenidate hydrochloride , a recently synthesised compound with little history of human use .
Lastly he was asked if he would be willing to add some harm reduction advice related to drug use and COVID-19 to his market page . He stated that he would participate if important new information needed dissemination , but advice was already posted on crypto-market sites and on ‘ dark . fail ’ – a dark web site that lists current crypto-markets and whether they are open for business .
pleasure , similar to a supermarket selling alcohol . Both suppliers mentioned that they had ‘ preferred customers ’ who they trusted and could be said to have become ‘ friends ’. They would share information on purity and optimal routes of administration as well as general ‘ news ’ with these clients .
WILLING PARTICIPANTS The first seller was by far the most accepting of my position and was willing to participate in the dissemination of harm reduction advice . He sold a range of NPS including analogues of some medications . In collaboration with key partners , a number of packages were purchased and sent for
‘ Though the acquisition of wealth was a driving force , so were positive experiences with the chemicals they were selling . This is an interesting twist on the popular narrative of the dealer as purely motivated by money , and also reminds us that the distinction between user and dealer is often paper thin .’
analysis to the Tic Tac database at St Georges Hospital ( DDN , January 2014 , page 14 ). Invariably , he was able to accurately list the active ingredients in his products .
ALFSnaiper / iStock
He was also very interested in products that would be viewed as positive by his customers and not cause obvious harm – this again runs counter to the notion of a dealer who will sell any drug indiscriminately . This was illustrated by his request for ‘ testers ’ of his products to provide feedback on their effects . He was willing to include important harm reduction messages within the packaging – for example , each product distributed would include a short message , written by myself , listing basic harm reduction advice .
INITIAL RELUCTANCE The other was initially very reluctant to engage but eventually accepted that I did not represent a threat . As the pandemic developed , he was asked about how it was impacting on his bulk deliveries from China . He responded that , ‘ My deliveries are still getting through , just taking longer .’
During another exchange he was asked how the current situation was impacting on the quality or quantity of his products . Interestingly , his strategy appeared to be one of buying in advance and selling in bulk rather than dealing in small amounts , suggesting that availability of product was continuing unabated . He was also asked about any changes to the
REASONABLE ASSUMPTIONS These interactions show that it is possible to communicate effectively with some dealers of illicit drugs , and it is reasonable to assume that many suppliers are concerned about the welfare of others – a feature of drug culture that could potentially be harnessed by organisations that wish to promote public health .
In relation to COVID-19 , these interactions suggest that supply of newer synthetic compounds has continued unabated as has the invention and production of novel psychoactive research chemicals . Perversely , it would appear that logistical difficulties and interruptions to the postal system may encourage vendors to order in advance , source larger amounts of product and sell in bulk .
Clearly , bulk purchasing and sale could lead to negative impacts for end users . But in contrast to the ‘ evil dealer ’ narrative , gaining a better understanding of the motivations and mindset of drug suppliers may mean it ’ s possible to reduce risks by further interaction between individual sellers and health promotion agencies in key harm reduction areas such as drug alerts , naloxone and needle exchange distribution . With drug-related deaths and drug harms soaring , it may be time to ask ourselves if we should be engaging better with our online ‘ drug supermarkets ’.
Renato Masetti is training coordinator for Health Outreach NHS / EPUT
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