Social media markets for prescription drugs: Platforms as virtual mortars for drug types and dealers.

Jakob Demant, Silje Anderdal Bakken, Alexandra Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


Internet use has changed the mechanics of drug dealing. Although this has spurred some initial academic interest in how markets and their users have been changing, the issue is still under-researched. The purpose of this paper is to understand how the organisation of the distribution of prescription drugs and other illegal drugs overlap in these online markets by analysing data gathered from observation of the Swedish Facebook drug market and its participants.

Data were gathered during three months of digital ethnography conducted among Swedish Facebook posters supplemented by 25 interviews with sellers (20) and buyers (5). Screenshots and interview data were coded by carrying out an NVivo-based content analysis. The analysis is based on descriptive statistics of drug types, co-occurrence with other drugs, group size and the demographic characteristics of sellers. Additionally, the interviewees’ descriptions of the marketplace and their drug dealing or buying activities were included in the analysis.

In total, 57 Swedish Facebook groups that sold illegal substances were located. The groups rarely specialised in specific drug types, but were convened around demographic factors, such as specific cities and locales. The sales of prescription drugs were part of the overall activity of groups selling other illegal drugs, but they were more often sold in separate Facebook posts, possibly by specialist sellers. Swedish Facebook sales primarily concerned alprazolam, tramadol, pregabalin and clonazepam, and were sold by both professional and amateur sellers.

This study reports findings from a Nordic comparative study on social media drug dealing, representing the first in-depth study of digitally mediated prescription drug dealing outside of cryptomarkets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-49
JournalDrugs and Alcohol Today
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2020


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