The Amazon of Illegal Drugs: The Silk Road vs. The Streets [Infographic]

Imagine a site where you could go to purchase illegal drugs, instead of finding a dealer on the street. You wouldn’t even have to leave your home to get the drugs.

That’s the idea behind Silk Road, a hidden avenue on the Deep Web where people could traffic in more everyday items, such as books or art, as well as buying banned substances. This place became known as the Amazon of Illegal Drugs.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about the costs of buying drugs on Silk Road, the Amazon of Illegal Drugs.


When the drug-selling website Silk Road was shut down in October 2013, the event made international news. What didn’t make the news was how much the site’s purchasing clients were paying for the substances they were buying. Substance abuse comes with many costs. Emotional, health and career costs are just a few that we can name. However, Silk Road added yet another cost on top of its substance users’ problems: spending costs.

For example, the buying price of heroin on Silk Road was nearly 2x greater than heroin’s average street price. What’s more, drug users of nearly every single state would have saved more money buying drugs on the street as opposed to buying them on Silk Road. Drug users from roughly 1/5 of the country overpaid by more than $100 and North Dakota was the only state to see a decrease in drug costs for users who bought drugs on Silk Road.

Silk Road offered everything from mushrooms and marijuana to DMT and even heroin. But at what cost?

Buying Online Versus Buying Offline

Of course, the people who bought from Silk Road had very specific reasons for doing so. Some supporters of the site claimed it helped decrease the violence in the drug trade that arises from dealer disputes and rival gangs trying to infringe on others’ territories. They argued that by moving drug purchases online, and bringing things out of the dark alleys, Silk Road was doing people a favor, and they should be willing to pay the greater prices in return.

But does the world really need a digital designer drug trade? Silk Road made about $15 million annually during its first two years, a significant amount of money that street dealers would be dying to get their hands on. Still, the illegal drug trade was not exactly hurting even when Silk Trade was drawing lots of media attention, with billions still spent on the streets.

Like any type of specialty or boutique business, Silk Road depended on repeat buyers, and people could even leave feedback about different sellers and rate their experience. If that sounds a bit like Etsy, it’s an apt comparison, only people are buying ecstasy rather than cute printed T-shirts.

A Difference in Cost

One very interesting thing about Silk Road is that in three cases, buying online was actually cheaper than getting the drug off the street. The average Silk Road price for cocaine was $136, compared to $174 on the streets. For DMT it was significantly cheaper on Silk Road, at $111 to $367. Ecstasy, too, was a bargain on Silk Road at $67, compared to $100 on the streets.

Sources:,,,, and

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Posted on March 7th, 2014 in Infographics

Editorial Staff

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