OFor the past year or so I’ve been buying most of my drug supplies, including fentanyl, cocaine, Xanax, MDMA, and ketamine, through one special vendor that a friend of mine has. found online and shared with me. I find it more reliable and safer, in terms of avoiding criminalization as well as drug quality, than buying in person from different people.

Unlike many people who buy drugs on the dark web for similar reasons, I buy from my supplier on the Internet, via encrypted applications. This takes out the “middleman” from the dark web market by taking a percentage from me and the seller. I thought this was worth explaining, for the benefit of people who use drugs and are unable to access the dark web or want to avoid the extra costs.

Finding a trusted supplier is the hardest part.

Can this be an easy way to get scammed? Sure, but it can also happen with in-person sales. But some of us are lucky enough to get a steady, safer supply delivered right to our doorsteps at unbeatable prices. It is important to recognize that many marginalized people who use drugs, who may do not have reliable internet accessare excluded from these benefits.

I live in Canada and I always buy in Canada so nothing should go through international borders. You also need to get a cryptocurrency, which can be the biggest hurdle for many people. But I found it quite easy; many apps simply allow you to transfer money to yourself and convert it to cryptocurrency. Coinberry— “Canada’s trusted crypto trading platform to buy bitcoin securely!” is one of them.

Finding a trusted supplier is the hardest part. You might know someone who knows someone, or you might just experiment and get lucky. For those who can, surfing the dark web to find a provider, or asking someone you know to do so, is an option. Once you have one, you can move from the dark web to secure apps such as Signal Where Wicker. It would save you and the seller money when you remove the percentage charged by each dark web market.

The harm reduction saying, “start low and go slow,” should apply to the purchase of drugs as well as their use.

How do you know you’re not going to get scammed right away by sending your money to someone and expecting you to receive a package? Well, there is always that risk. But the internet, of course, has many places where the dark web and other online vendors are discussed. Reddit is ideal for this and contains many useful tips.

The harm reduction saying, “start low and go slow,” should apply to the purchase of drugs as well as their use. For your first order, it is better to buy a smaller quantity of the chosen drug. If it’s going well, you can gradually increase it. This way, you can establish trust at both ends of the transaction. Eventually, you may come to a point where you feel comfortable placing larger orders.

At the same time, you never want to order an amount that might tip the courier or the postal service. Canada Post cannot open packages under 30 grams without a warrant – the law varies in other countries – so I always keep my orders below this. A law passed a few years ago To allow the Canada Border Services Agency to search for smaller packages deemed “suspicious”, which is a good reason to avoid these international transactions. I also always ask for a tracking number, so at least I know something is on the way. My medications often arrive in a DVD case.

Building trust with an anonymous online source can be difficult, but a conversation is a good place to start. You can ask them how they do business and if they are open to new customers, then ask for a list of products and prices. Using a fake name can be a good way to reduce the risk of criminalization, and it’s often easy in Canada, where many people have their own post office boxes.

It is obvious, but important to emphasize, that drugs from any the source may not be the one under which they are sold. Selling fentanyl as heroin is typical, and certain rules in some dark web markets prohibiting the open sale of fentanyl make this more likely. The sellers themselves may be unaware of the contents of their medicines.

So once your medications have arrived, you should always test them before use, even if you trust the person who sent them. And do everything you can not to use it alone. Preferably, that means having someone on hand with naloxone, who has saved my life more than one time. Alternatively, it could also mean having someone locate you virtually—via a dedicated app, Facetime, Zoom or a phone call so they can call emergency medical services in the event of an overdose.

Until we have a safe and regulated supply everywhere, finding unregulated trusted suppliers is the best we can do.

I overdosed on my provider’s medication. But when I discussed it with them afterwards, they took it into account, changed their sourcing and sent me something different. Logically, sellers have an incentive to act this way: Serious sellers are there for a steady income, and killing a customer or having a bad reputation online would hurt their business.

A reliable supply of medicines can save lives. This is exactly why harm reduction proponents are pushing for widely available access, secure and regulated supply across Canada and beyond. Until we get that, finding unregulated trusted providers is the best we can do. We drug users need to share source information as much as possible to help each other through this current crisis of drug poisoning deaths.

Photographs by Matthew Bonn