Tullverket

Online drugs

Online drugs are a constantly increasing problem. You can here read about how the marketing and selling of these drugs works. There is also advice about what you yourself should do if you or anyone in your vicinity comes into contact with them.

Online drugs are a constantly increasing problem. You can here read about how the marketing and selling of these drugs works. There is also advice about what you yourself should do if you or anyone in your vicinity comes into contact with them.

What is an online drug?

By “online drugs” Swedish Customs means drugs, or substances with a similar effect, that are bought online. They can be anything from drugs already classed as narcotics (e.g. cannabis) to new drugs that have not yet been classed as narcotics.

New drugs, new users

New drugs are being marketed at an ever quickening rate. Young people are the primary target group. There is a clear trend towards all types of drugs constantly reaching new categories of young people. These are people who have not previously been exposed to drugs and substance abuse cultures. A major element in this development is the internet. It offers boundless possibilities – also for those who want to buy or sell drugs. A few simple clicks and the letter or parcel is on its way.

The public authorities are doing what they can to stop this smuggling. However, it is not an easy battle. The flow of parcels is large and, though they may have narcotic-like effects, all drugs sold online are not yet classified as narcotics or goods that are hazardous to health. Some are sold entirely openly and freely – despite the risk of turning the consumers into human guinea pigs.

All narcotics can be found online

Over the past few years, Swedish Customs’ seizure of narcotics in the flow of mail and parcels has increased considerably. This is one result of the public authorities devoting more resources to checking this flow. However, it is also attributable to increased smuggling. All forms of narcotics can now be obtained online. It is simply a question of knowing where to look. Several websites have hidden sections that can only be reached via a “filter” of personal tests (so-called “greening”). After these, an approved buyer is allocated a login that gives access to the drugs.

Such sales generate massive profits for criminal networks. It saves them costly and risky distribution – “the goods” are sent by parcel rather than being transported across borders in vehicles. However, above all else, the web opens an entirely new market, i.e. young people of all ages who might otherwise never come into contact with narcotics. For these, anonymity may be the feather that tips the scales. Many have also been lulled into a false belief that there is no risk in ordering drugs. Yet, in reality, that online click can end in several years’ imprisonment. Or, far worse, long and destructive drug abuse.

Abuse of doping agents is growing

There is extensive abuse of doping agents in Sweden. Swedish Customs’ seizure statistics have been heading upwards for several years. A significant percentage of the seizures come from the flow of mail and parcels. The problems are the same as with narcotics. However, greater online availability also increases the risk that more groups may consider “giving them a try”, even though they can cause serious physical and mental harm.

Additionally, some people have the false idea that the preparations are safe because they are often based on legally manufactured medicines. They shut their eyes to the fact that medicines too can have serious side-effects. Above all else, they fool themselves. Many of the illegally sold preparations are counterfeit or deviate from the originals in other ways. Letters/parcels come from all over the world and may just as easily be stamped Borlänge as Barcelona or Beijing. Even if doping agents are, as a rule, manufactured abroad, sales and distribution are taken care of by criminal networks in Sweden. As recently as 2011, the maximum penalty for serious crime involving doping agents was increased to six years’ imprisonment.

Synthetic drugs openly marketed

There is a constantly growing cornucopia of new drugs that are being marketed openly under imaginative names. These are synthetically fabricated drugs that have the sole purpose of imitating narcotics without being legally classed as narcotics. That the drugs can be regarded as legal increases their attractiveness, not least amongst young buyers Rumours of a new drug can spread like wildfire via various online chat forums and communities.

How the preparations are marketed varies from the vague to, for example “herbal mixture” or being explicitly stated as comparable with a known narcotic preparation. Many of the new drugs are made in China, but are often sold via websites in Sweden. Parcels are usually marked with “gift”, “health food” or “hobby articles” stickers.

The manufacturers of these drugs have poor or no knowledge of the health risks presented by their preparations. This is not surprising as the mix of chemical substances is constantly being changed to avoid the drug being prohibited through classification as narcotics or goods that are hazardous to health. That is the entire basis of the business concept: Let buyers be the guinea pigs while the sales make enormous profits.

Better possibilities for action

For a drug to be prohibited in Sweden, it must contain one or more substances that can be classified either as narcotics or goods that are hazardous to health. Such decisions are taken by the government after careful review by relevant public authorities. The drugs manufacturers know this. As soon as one substance has been prohibited, their chemists replace it with another. A variant that may have precisely the same effects and be just as harmful as the old one, but which requires a new review by the authorities. A variant that causes great harm, even death, before it too is prohibited.

This is why Swedish Customs and the police are now entitled to seize a drug that has not yet been prohibited, but which is going to be abused and contains any substance that it may be assumed will be given a narcotics or goods that are hazardous to health classification. To protect the lives and health of individuals, Sweden’s Destruction of Certain Substances of Abuse that are Hazardous to Health Act (2011:111) was introduced in spring 2011. Since then, Swedish Customs has used its new powers more or less daily and seized drugs that have not yet been classified as narcotics.

Some advice on helping your children, friends or colleagues take a stance on drugs:

  • Speak with them about drugs – both the possible risks and the legal consequences of using drugs.
  • Watch out for changes in behaviour. Is anybody in your circle suddenly “somewhere else”, either physically or mentally? Ask yourself why!
  • Familiarise yourself with communities and other parts of the internet that you know they use.
  • Take a critical stance on preparations that are unknown to you and are sold online with claims that they “make you happier” or otherwise increase your wellbeing.
  • Keep a check on what arrives by post. Do you have children who are living at home and are receiving letters/parcels from unknown consignors – find out what is inside!
  • Telephone Swedish Customs on 112 if you suspect that anyone is selling or smuggling drugs.

Last updated: 2020-11-03

What is updated: Quality assured