Software-automated approach to monitoring online e-shops offering new psychoactive substances

In programme
Thursday, 24 October, 2019 - 18:30 to 19:30


The aim of the workshop is to explain the use and the benefits of using SASF 2 (software-automated shop finder) for monitoring trends on online market with new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to provide a practical training in operating SASF 2.

In 2006, 2011 and 2013, the EMCDDA conducted an EU-wide, multi-lingual “snapshot” of surface e-shops offering NPS. Following this methodology, a semi-automated shop finder
(I-TREND SASF) was developed and adopted across the I-TREND project consortium (CZ, FR, NL, PL, UK).

Analysis of the data retrieved by I-TREND SASF suggested that the number of e-shops selling specific NPS decreased in 2015 after these NPS were put under control, while new compounds appeared in several e-shops only after being controlled (see Belackova, V., Pazitny, M., Drapalova, E., Martinez, M., van der Gouwe, D., Begley, E., & Kmetonynova, D. (2018). Assessing the impact of laws controlling the online availability of 25I-NBOMe, AH-7921, MDPV, and MXE–outcomes of a semi-automated e-shop monitoring. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 25(2), 109-117.).

SASF 2 software tool is a radical update of the previously developed I-TREND SASF in that it has further minimised the need for human input by incorporating machine-learning technology. This assists in automatically distinguishing e-shops offering NPS from other webpages. Search queries in SASF2 can be run periodically using Google and the keywords for the search have been set up as NPS listed in the European Database on New Drugs.

In its current form, SASF 2 is an intuitive, software-automated tool which allows its operator to access a real-time database of e-shops on the surface web and to an overview of search outcomes per NPS and NPS group.

The practical and interactive workshop will teach participants the following:

a) how SASF 2 works and what are its limitations
b) how to operate SASF 2
c) what data can be easily retrieved from SASF 2
d) how to report on the results from SASF 2

The development of SASF 2 by PsyIT has been funded by one of the I-TREND project partners, the French OFDT.