MONTREAL - When drug users go online for the first time to buy opioids, they aren't looking for the widest selection or the best prices for their illicit purchases, a new study suggests.

"When opioid users are making that first purchase, price doesn't matter at all," said Scott Duxbury, lead author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University.

"This core group could be less vulnerable than their real-world counterparts to disruption by law enforcement," Duxbury said.

Duxbury and Dana Haynie, professor of sociology at Ohio State, conducted the first study to investigate the network structure of an encrypted online drug distribution network, examining the web of connections between buyers and sellers.

"The accessibility and ease of purchasing illegal drugs online opens up a global market where buyers and sellers are no longer constrained by locality and buyers have more options and diversity in product selection," Haynie said.

They presented their research Aug. 12 in Montreal at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association and in a paper published recently in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

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