Request for Information (RFI): Understanding the Creation, Continuation, and Consequences of Illicit Drug Markets
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

April 11, 2023

Response Date:
May 26, 2023

Related Announcements


Issued by

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is requesting feedback from researchers, community stakeholders, and other interested public parties regarding the type of epidemiologic information that would be most useful to understand U.S. illicit drug markets and to inform prevention, intervention, treatment, and harm reduction efforts. This RFI is not a request for applications. This RFI is being issued for the purpose of obtaining knowledge and information for planning purposes.

Note: It is important to read this entire RFI notice to ensure how to submit adequate responses and to understand how the responses will be utilized.


Drug markets are black markets dedicated to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, retail, sale, and use of prohibited drugs. Although illicit drug markets are similar to one another in that they are economic markets operating outside the realm of legitimate commerce, how these markets are organized and operated differ depending on the type of drug. It is important to understand the different characteristics and evolution of illicit drug markets as different forms of market organization and operation have different outcomes, particularly in terms of public health and safety. Epidemiological research is needed to examine the influential characteristics of different types of drug markets and the impact of these characteristics on market and participant behavior; the impact of different types of disruptions on drug markets; the reformulations of drug markets post-disruptions; and the expansion of drug markets to now include the use of the dark web, crypto-currency platforms, and online or mobile applications. By providing policymakers with unbiased, up-to-date, actionable information, they can enact evidence-based strategies to interrupt or prevent these illicit drug marketplaces and the resulting consequences.

Information Requested:

Detailed data on different illicit drug markets is critical for informing development of targeted prevention, treatment, and harm reduction strategies, implementing these strategies successfully, and aiding decisions of public health officials and other policy makers. Public comment is sought to prioritize research that would accelerate the characterization of illicit drug markets and optimize the effectiveness of strategies to interrupt or prevent these activities. The NIH seeks comments on the importance of the following topics and any suggestions for future areas of related inquiry:

  • Characteristics of drug markets (e.g., price, purity, formulation, availability, geography, structure, etc.) that are the most influential in driving market and participant behavior.
    • The relation between drug market characteristics and drug use.
  • The interaction with, or influence of, drug markets with one another (e.g., the impact of cannabis policies on the illicit opioid market).
  • The impact of policy interventions on the evolution of different types of drug markets over time.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on drug markets.
    • The similarities or differences between the impact of COVID-19 on drug markets and other types of market disruptions (e.g., natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc.).
  • The impact of market disruptions on drug market reformulations.
  • The role of the dark web and crypto-currency in drug markets.
    • Variations in the impact of the dark web and crypto-currency on drug markets, depending on drug type or individual participant characteristics.
  • The role that online or mobile applications (e.g., "apps") play in encouraging drug-seeking behavior and facilitating drug purchases.
    • Determining which subgroups are most likely to use these apps and the impact of these apps on public health outcomes.
  • The relation (if any) between the ease of obtaining other substances (e.g., alcohol and cannabis) via online sales and home deliveries and illicit drug markets.
  • Ways that epidemiologic data on illicit drug markets can effectively inform interventions and strategies to disrupt and prevent these activities.
  • Other topics to better inform NIDA's understanding of drug markets.

How to Submit a Response:

Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically via:

Responses must be received by: May 26, 2023

Please put the RFI identifier NOT-DA-23-023 in the Subject Line of your responses. Respondents will receive an automated e-mail confirmation acknowledging receipt of their response but will not receive individual feedback. Any identifiers (e.g., names, institutions, e-mail addresses, etc.) will be removed when responses are compiled. Only the processed, anonymized results will be shared internally with NIDA and NIH program staff and participating leadership across the Department of Health and Human Services, as appropriate. Nonetheless, no proprietary information should be submitted.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary. Do not include any proprietary, classified, confidential, trade secret, or sensitive information in your response. The responses will be reviewed by NIH staff. The Government will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion. The Government reserves the right to use any submitted information on public NIH websites, in reports, in summaries of the state of the science, in any possible resultant solicitation(s), grant(s), or cooperative agreement(s), or in the development of future funding opportunity announcements.

This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and shall not be construed as a solicitation, grant, or cooperative agreement, or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the NIH, or individual NIH Institutes and Centers to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. The Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government’s use of such information. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise because of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information. NIH looks forward to your input and we hope that you will share this RFI document with your colleagues.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Elyse R. Grossman, Ph.D., J.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)