A detailed study of a prominent dark web fentanyl trafficking organization

Jonathan P. Caulkins, Philippe C. Schicker, H. Brinton Milward, Peter Reuter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Overdose deaths in North America have soared, primarily because of the spread of illegally manufactured fentanyl. This paper uses detailed qualitative and transaction-level data to analyse an early and prominent dark web fentanyl-selling operation. The data record the date, drug, quantity, and selling price for 5,589 transactions comprising 872,659 items sold for a little over $2.8 million through AlphaBay. Findings include that the organisation sustained an impressive sales growth rate of approximately 15% per week, compounded. Increasing order sizes by a factor of ten reduced the price per pill by approximately 25% for Oxycodone and 50% for Xanax. Those steep quantity discounts imply large price markups when selling further down the distribution chain. Such high growth rates and price markups suggest that it might be difficult to constrain supply by shutting down individual organisations, since any remaining organisations may be able to quickly grow to fill unmet demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGlobal Crime
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Fentanyl
  • cryptomarkets
  • dark web markets
  • drug markets
  • drug prices
  • opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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