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Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR)


eDarkTrends: Monitoring Darknet Markets to Track Illicit Synthetic Opioid Trends

Submitted in response to PAR-16-055, the overall goals of this time-sensitive R21 are to harness cryptomarket data to conduct surveillance of the illicit synthetic opioid markets availability trends over time, and identify new substances as they emerge on cryptomarkets. The Specific Aims are to:

Specific Aim 1: Develop a semi-automated system, eDarkTrends, to collect and process data about illicit synthetic opioids supplied on cryptomarkets.

Specific Aim 2: Deploy eDarkTrends to:

  • Specific Aim 2.a: Describe and monitor U.S-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, product forms, quantity supplied, and drug combinations;
  • Specific Aim 2.b: Identify new illicit synthetic opioid substances and product forms soon after they appear on cryptomarkets.

This exploratory multi-PI study builds on the long-standing collaboration between researchers at the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR), and the Ohio Center of Excellence in Knowledge-enabled Computing (Kno.e.sis) at Wright State University (R21/DA030571, R01/DA039454 Daniulaityte/Sheth PIs). The infodemiology expertise gained by the research team during our two collaborative NIH-awarded grants on social media data will be combined with the world leading expertise of Dr. Barratt on drug-focused Darknet research to achieve the specific aims.  Dr. Barratt has collaborated with the CITAR/Kno.e.sis team as a consultant on previous projects. The combination of Web-content crawlers and semantics-enhanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques that use lexical, lexico-ontological, ontological and rule-based knowledge, is highly innovative for the field of infodemiology, and it will enhance the collection, description and analysis of cryptomarket data. The study is highly significant because we will develop and deploy a semi-automated system for timely harnessing cryptomarket data and capturing trends and changes related to illicit synthetic opioid supplies. This project will have a high public health impact by taking the exploratory steps needed to develop a monitoring and early warning system dedicated to illicit synthetic opioids based on extracted cryptomarket data. Our findings will inform more timely interventions and policy responses to address problems inherent in changes in illicit drug marketing and supply, emerging new compounds and product forms (e.g., nasal spray, e-liquid), and unknown and potentially harmful polysubstance mixtures.


This study is funded by the NIH/NIDA Grant No. R21 DA044518                  

Principal Investigators: Raminta Daniulaityte, Francois Lamy (Mahidol University), Amit Sheth                                       

Co-Investigators: Ramzi Nahhas, Monica Barratt (University of New South Wales)

Graduate Research Assistants: Usha Lokala


Last edited on 04/09/2021.