I could buy drugs online in less than 30 minutes

Yes you read that correctly. I could buy vast amounts of heroin, amphetamine and ecstasy faster then I could have a pizza delivered, which is quite impressive when you realise that I live in Italy.

You may have heard of the dark web, its pretty synonymous with drugs, porn and pretty much anything illegal, and many governments would love nothing more than to shut it down. Which makes it all the more ironic that it was originally invented by the US department of Defence.

Yup – The dark web’s original function was actually to protect the sensitive communication of US spies through a multi-layered security network. They made it so secure that they can’t actually undo it.

The dark web is called so for good reason, you can’t just Google it. You need to install The Onion Router (TOR for short) to access the deepest and darkest of its depths.

Installation of the TOR browser on my laptop was a piece of cake, even for a non-techy person like myself. It was as simple as installing a game. Then came the difficult part – finding drugs.

I searched private Reddit groups and patrolled forums looking for secret links and possible codewords to no avail. Everyone there was as lost as I was, everyone was pleading for access to this underground network and nobody was biting.

That being said, if I sold controlled substances over the internet, I wouldn’t exactly be shouting it from the rooftops either.

I typed in (via TOR)

“Amphetamine for sale”

“Drugs for sale”

And many more equally obvious and cringey searches.

I was initially quite surprised at just how slow TOR was, it was akin to the primary school block computers we had in the early 2000’s, the constant anticipation and tension, I sat praying to our computer overlords that the whole thing doesn’t just crash my laptop.

I found a few results, mainly about the costs of buying medical grade amphetamine, which is often used to treat ADD and ADHD, but nothing about who or where to buy them from.

Then it hit me.

If I need medication, I go to a pharmacist. If I need food, I go to a grocery store. If I need something random, let’s be honest, I’m going to just order it off Amazon.

You don’t walk to a singular person seeking what you need (unless of course you are a drug addict and do in fact, need to see your dealer face-to-face) You go to a shop or a marketplace and search there to see if they have it, and with that one simple conclusion I figured out where I needed to look.

A quick google search later and I found that the biggest dark web marketplace was called The Silk Road. Here I could purchase firearms, fake currency, drugs of all shapes and sizes… if I had just searched for it ten years earlier.

You see, The Silk Road marketplace had been successfully shut down in 2013 and its founder Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to not one, but two, life sentences, without the possibility of parole. A similar website dubbed The Silk Road 2.0 sprung up shortly after to fill the gap in the market. That too had long been shut down.

I anxiously returned to the TOR browser and began my search. A quick search of “best marketplaces to buy drugs 2023” offered me everything that I’d been searching for. A solid list of 30 dark web sites hell bent on selling me the finest drugs they had to offer. I didn’t even have to leave the comfort of my couch.

The article offered pros and cons of each site and accompanying links to each marketplace. What I hadn’t expected was that most of them required you to create an account to even view them. Shit was getting real. I didn’t want there to be any evidence that I had accessed illegal websites and went snooping for drugs. The more I scrolled the more defeated I felt.

At the very bottom of the list, I stumbled upon one site in particular that offered instant access. It was called ASAP marketplace. I tapped the link (don’t click links on the dark web, you muppet) and was instantly redirected to a CAPTCHA and a 30 second timer.

I quickly began typing in what I saw. The screen flashed INCORRECT.

The panic was sinking in. How did they already know that I shouldn’t be here? Could they have figured it out that quickly?

I tried once more and bingo. Apparently in my blind panic I must have simply mistyped something because here I was, in a hub for drugs.

I stared blankly at the screen wondering “Where do I even begin?”

The site was simple, a bit dated if I’m honest, but I suppose the main concern here isn’t having a stunning interface.

I started to scroll, much like other e-commerce websites they had promoted content at the top, mostly weed. They had organised categories which made it quite easy to peruse whatever tickled my fancy.

With a few simple clicks I could get my hands on Afghan heroin, San Pedro Cactus, super Mario ecstasy tablets, even magic mushrooms home-grown in the UK. I’m pretty street smart but even I hadn’t heard of half of these.

My thought with the dark web was always, how the hell do you even know what you are getting? Because of the complete anonymity, people can just lie to you. Someone could easily send me a baggie filled with green tea claiming that its squidgy black and there’s literally nothing that I can do about it. It’s surely a Mecca for scammers and snake-oil salesmen?

Well yes and no.

Like every half decent e-commerce website, you can leave reviews.

I actually found this really interesting, I’ve inserted a little screenshot below.

They seemed like some genuinely happy customers.

Adding reviews adds some level of accountability I guess, but AGAIN, if they send something dodgy and get a terrible review, what’s to stop them from creating a new account and doing the same thing all over again?

I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to see how far I could go with this for the sake of this article. What I had done so far was technically – perfectly legal. Browsing TOR and even looking at these kinds of website is not a punishable crime, the same way I can ask any random dealer if he has any weed. If I have no intent to buy it then its perfectly fine. However, the second I hand them over that money, I’ve committed a crime.

Just to be clear, I don’t take drugs, I don’t even smoke weed, I even quit smoking cigarettes a year ago. Sure, I enjoy more white wine a week than I probably should, but that’s the extent of it.

I contemplated ordering something then setting the package on fire once it arrived. But don’t most drugs give off a specific smell when burnt? Would the government prosecute me for purchasing drugs, even though it was for journalistic purposes? Would I get deported from Italy and banned for life? Would anyone believe such a ridiculous explanation? I know I wouldn’t.

Unsurprisingly, the internet didn’t have any answers for my questions.

So, I did the most obvious thing that I could think of. I deleted TOR and turned off my laptop.


Update: Two weeks after I first accessed the dark web my card details were stolen and used to make a clone card. Whoever got a hold of my details had made over $200 worth of purchases before I got an update from my card company.

Please, if any of you decide to browse the dark web, do so with the utmost caution. Read the forums and articles about how to protect your identity, don’t click any links, don’t download anything there and be sure to use a VPN. Everyone (myself included) thinks that stuff like this won’t happen to them, until it does.