Positive and negative results of the spread of drug use on internet pro-drug forums
With five seconds, two typed words, and a simple Google search, any individual is able to access "The Great Big Narcotics Cookbook"- a virtual step by step guide to the ins and outs of growing, obtaining, synthesizing, and using nearly every illegal drug known to man. The Internet has become a very effective commodity for illegal drug activity as pro-drug websites detail some of the most dangerous and explicit information to an all-encompassing audience; but serious threats to the impressionable, the curious, and the addicts ensue, yielding a controversial issue on whether websites of this variety should be removed or if this free speech that in all actuality provides a wealth of knowledge and a blanket of safety.
Currently, America is in the midst of a war on drugs and it has been debated whether or not this is war has failed. By looking on the Internet the prevalence of drugs and drug users- especially young people, is quite popular. The Internet tends to be a safe haven for those who enjoy recreational drug use and for those curious people who seek to dabble and explore. According to Steven Belenko, a Professor at Temple University, “ It's universal accessibility makes the Internet a potentially powerful platform for disseminating prevention messages to adolescents, but it also can undermine prevention messages” (Belenko,). In fact, the Internet may be the most widely used source for information among young people. A study of teens aged 15–17 found that 76% had gone online to research health topics, including drug and alcohol abuse (25%) and smoking (23%). Among teens researching health topics online, 53% said they talked with a parent or other adult about what they found, and 41% reported changing their behavior because of online information (Belenko,) The influence of pro-drug websites is undeniable, especially when a large portion of viewers report to changing their behaviors based on the information they view online. If this is the case, taking a look at The Great Big Narcotics Cookbook can exemplify why this information can be very dangerous when in the hands of the wrong viewer.
The Great Big Narcotics Cookbook has an index that speaks volumes about how explicit online drug information has become. The book starts out with how to make acid, then how to make crack, methamphetamine, GHB, heroin, LSA, and MDMA . The book also has chapters on cultivating drugs including marijuana, magic mushrooms, and psychedelic cacti. The reader can learn how to obtain pharmaceuticals, how to extract codeine to convert into morphine, how to get high on cough medicine, nutmeg, and even toads. And the truth of the matter is, a relatively competent middle school student would probably be able to successfully cook methamphetamine with the items they have under the kitchen sink and around the house.
More and more pro-drug outlets are emerging on the Internet. These sites offer informative perspectives on all different levels, but in some cases drug use is glamorized and tempting to the viewer. Some of this influence is accredited to what is happening in pop culture; house/techno music is bigger than ever and raves are being frequented by a large of today's young adults. Club drugs are becoming a common theme at raves, concerts, and music festivals. An individual attending any rave, concert, or festival venues will undoubtedly come across some of his peers walking around throwing out common street names for illegal drugs and trying to sell them to others in attendance. The popular use of club drugs for these purposes have resulted in informative drug websites such as dancesafe.org, where users are encouraged to discuss drugs, raves, music, and other drug related topics such as drug screening kits to test the quality of your ecstasy, cocaine etc.
The call for pro-drug websites can also be looked at in a positive light as well. There are people who believe that although anti-drug messages are wise and well intended, the problem with drug abuse is simply too large to really prevent, and its better to be informative and provide useful information to users than let drug use be a trial and error with potentially fatal consequences. Albert Einstein was an advocate against the idea of prohibition and said, "The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law, for nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced." This idea that government cannot monitor drug effectively, and they cannot restrict the free speech on the topic of drugs, propels the encouragement for websites that offer harm reduction information for intended drug use.
The founders of Erowid believe that taking psychoactives can be a positive intellectual and spiritual experience. As they state, "Although the risks and problems are widely discussed, it’s also clear that psychoactive plants and chemicals have played a positive role in many people’s lives. As our culture struggles with integrating the increasing variety and availability of these substances into its political and social structures, new educational models are clearly needed. Erowid is founded on the belief that a healthy relationship with psychoactives is one grounded in balance, where use is part of an active, intellectual, physical, and spiritual life." (Wax, 3)
Although many criticize Erowid to be a negative pressure on kids to encourage drug use, the dangers of drugs both health-wise and legally are fairly discussed as well.
The Erowid GHB Web page, for example, clearly states that GHB is illegal to possess, sell, or buy. The GHB legal status page specifically details the federal, state, and international legal status of GHB. In fact, the Erowid site directly hyperlinks to the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Agency website (http://www.usdoj.gov/dea) to elucidate precisely the definition of Schedule 1 drugs. In addition, the Erowid site acknowledges that the use of GHB can be extremely dangerous and that it should not be mixed with alcohol.(Wax, 5)
So, although criticized for containing such explicit information, pro-drug websites may get the bulk of their bad reputation as a result of the taboo that goes along with drugs. Pro-drug websites are not intended to push kids down a wrong path or sway them to try illegal substances, however it must be recognized that many people out there do have an interest- according to Erowid, 18,000 viewers use the website each day; and if this is the case, some people feel that users need to be educated for their own safety and the safety of others around them. The purpose of these sites is for harm-reduction- the key component driving these sites as users actively seek out responsible ways to take drugs and many users do a lot of research before ever experimenting. Some users go to a further extent and log on to forums to provide personal experiences and tips such as if a person happened to combine a psychedelic with something else and it resulted in a "bad trip" they often post a warning testimonial in a drug forum to advise others from making this mistake. Some users even post very serious and very real accounts that can deter people from the use of drugs. For example an Erowid user recounts a bad experience on an overestimated dose of mescaline and says:
The mescaline redose hits me. I’m torn, like a plane whose wings have been riddled with gunshots. I’m no longer soaring, I’m going down. Within a few instants, things are not alright anymore. Something is going very, very not - alright. A blood pressure cuff goes on my arm. Heart is racing faster than ever before...The cuff reads 180. One Hundred And Eighty Beats. Per. Minute...Eyes peeled open wide in terror. The realization a heart attack could spontaneously occur at any moment...My girlfriend has become aware of my agitation. And she is almost as scared as I am. “How fast is your pulse? One Eighty? My God! Over one sixty means you need to be sitting down! Sit down! Don’t argue, sit down RIGHT NOW!” (LucidStudies)
These testimonials offer a realistic and relate-able consequence to experimenting with drugs. Many young people look to these websites because they don’t trust that their parents and teachers are telling them what is true about drugs. A lot of young people feel like the information they get from adults about drugs is biased as a result of the strong taboo of drug use. For example students scoff at comments such as former President Ronald Reagan’s, “I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-Bomb blast.”; and the reason they scoff is because many of them have researched the risks and know that this is untrue. Because of this reasoning, people may look to pro-drug forums as more of a big-brother approach to hear the effects from someone who says- “Yeah I’ve tried it, this is what is was like, these are the ways to be safe, and this is what is dangerous.” Because pro-drug websites take this approach, rather than simply trying to scare kids away based on falsities misconstrued as facts, young people go there to learn and discuss how to deal with drugs responsibly.
Pro-Drug websites detail the dosage, combinations with other substances, and setting in order to provide an accurate account and an attempt to prevent others from the same negative experiences. If these websites were to be eliminated, drug abuse would still be happening, however there would be no way to learn safer ways to experiment except through personal trial and error mistakes- mistakes that can all too often be dangerous, and even deadly.