Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of seizures and unintentional overdose fatalities related to illicit synthetic opioids in multiple states across the U.S. Submitted in response to NIDA PAR-16-055, Research Area 1 (Responses to sudden and severe emerging drug issues), this time-sensitive R21 application builds on interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers at the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Additions Research (CITAR) and the Ohio Center of Excellence in Knowledge-enabled Computing (Kno.e.sis) at Wright State University. The overall purposes of the proposed study are to (a) characterize illicit synthetic opioid marketing characteristics and trends, and (b) identify new, emerging illicit synthetic opioid terms (e.g., substance names, product forms) from three cryptomarkets located in the Deep Web.
The Specific Aims of the study are to: 1) Develop a semi-automated knowledge-based system, eDarkTrends, to collect and process data about illicit synthetic opioids supplied on cryptomarkets; 2a) Describe and monitor US-based supply trends of illicit synthetic opioids on cryptomarkets (e.g., trends in availability of non-pharmaceutical fentanyl analogs, U-47700, MT-45), including types of illicit synthetic opioids, prices, advertised purity, dosage and product forms, quantity supplied, and drug combinations; 2b) Identify new illicit synthetic opioid substances and product forms soon after they appear on cryptomarkets. The proposed study is significant because it will provide new information about illicit synthetic opioids and will identify new illicit synthetic opioids as soon as they appear on those markets. The key innovation is the development of a semi-automated system able to a) collect and analyze advertisement data from cryptomarkets and b) identify new emerging substances advertised on these markets.
The study will collect and analyze data extracted from Deep Web cryptomarkets to characterize illicit synthetic opioid marketing characteristics and trends in the U.S, and will identify new, emerging illicit synthetic opioid-related terms (e.g., substance names, product forms) as soon as they appear on these markets. It will be the first system to apply semi-automated computational techniques to monitor the supply of illicit synthetic opioids on cryptomarkets. The findings will inform public health interventions and policy responses.