Monitoring the Internet for emerging psychoactive substances available to Australia

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Introduction and Aims

Novel psychoactive substances are increasingly available, both in traditional storefronts and via the Internet. While some use of such substances has been captured in Australian consumer surveys and wastewater analyses, there is little information about the products that are available to Australia via the Internet.

Design and Methods

Systematic monthly Internet monitoring for emerging psychoactive substances was conducted between July 2011 and July 2012. Webstores identified through searches were examined to determine if they sold stimulant or psychedelic emerging psychoactive substances to Australia. Internet search numbers for these products were examined over time using commercial tools.


In 12 months, 43 unique webstores were identified selling to Australia, averaging two new webstores per month; however, two-fifths had closed within six months. Over 200 unique chemically unspecified products sold by purported effect (e.g. ‘charge’) were identified over 12 months, averaging 10 new products per month. Almost half of these products had disappeared from the market within six months. Eighty-six unique chemically specified products (e.g. methylenedioxypyrovalerone) were identified over 12 months, averaging four new novel substances per month. Once released, these products typically remained available, with almost 90% still available for purchase over a 6-month period. Almost 40 000 searches for these products emanated from Australia per month.

Discussion and Conclusion

This market is fast paced as retailers strive to beat both regulatory processes and competitors. Ongoing attention to these markets, incorporating surveillance of both Internet and traditional storefronts, is crucial as several of the substances identified have demonstrated potential for health and neurological harm.

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