Clicking for a Fix: Drugs Online

Clicking for a Fix: Drugs Online
Posted by FoM on February 27, 2002 at 17:35:02 PT
By Jessica Reaves
Source: Time Magazine 
How easy is it to buy illegal drugs on the Internet? Pretty darn easy, according to a new study by the United Nation's International Narcotics Control Board. The report, issued Wednesday, warns that drug traffickers are finding myriad ways to conduct their illegal transactions in cyberspace  leaving law enforcement officers struggling to keep up. The INCB study details the ways traffickers communicate with each other and with their clients, often commandeering unrelated chat rooms to set up deals, or using Web courier services to transport their contraband packages. 
Even without the examples offered by the INCB, it's not hard to imagine that for professional drug dealers, the Internet is a virtual playground. It's incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to control and censor; it has no borders, and, unlike in the physical world, criminals can change identities and locations in the time it takes to switch on a new computer. But what about the rest of us? Is it really so very easy to track down drugs on a whim, just by opening a browser? In the interest of journalism, I set out to answer my own question, and found a very different world than what's described in the U.N. report. The U.N., of course, is a venerable institution with many resources, and I am just one small person  so perhaps it's not surprising that I could find no evidence of said hard-core Internet drug culture. Before recounting my online experiences, I want to issue the following disclaimers: One, many of the drugs discussed here are illegal and it's extraordinarily stupid to use them. Two, I spent a limited time (several hours) conducting this research; I'm sure I missed many sites, but as we've all come to realize (and my editor keeps reminding me), it's impossible to search the entire Internet. Cocaine: It's not just for soft drinks any more  My search for "cocaine" came up with thousands of entries, most of them anti-drug sites sponsored by federal or local government agencies. (I also tried "buying cocaine," and "cocaine sources" but had less luck). Sprinkled among the "just say no" messages, however, there were a few oddball sites  some of which took me by surprise. A few sold booklets purporting to show exactly how to combine "everyday household products" to make cocaine  these booklets, of course, are "for law enforcement officials only." How do these vendors check your credentials? They don't. Then, there are sites that actually spell out how to make cocaine in your very own (very well-equipped) kitchen. True, the recipes require a Ph.D-level understanding of pharmacology and tools such as space-age thermometers, but hey, if you're really hooked, I'm sure you'll find a way to overcome these minor speed bumps. If you're interested, you can also trace the history of cocaine through the ages, from its beginnings as a treat for the royalty of the Andean Indians to its role as a "wonder drug" and its infamous inclusion in the formula for Coca-Cola. Heroin: A little taste of history Again, plenty of opportunities to manufacture or grow your own stuff, but nowhere to buy it straight from a dealer. Also lots of paeans to the wondrous effects of heroin, most dating back to the 19th century, when opium was all the rage, and when kids were given heroin in the form of cough syrup. You can also read horrific addiction stories by people who've fallen in love with heroin and lived to tell about it. Support groups for addicts abound as well, as do contact numbers for needle exchange centers. Perhaps the dearth of opportunities to buy heroin online is directly traceable to the spectacular popularity and widespread availability of Oxycontin, an even more addictive opiate painkiller which, until very recently, was barely regulated. Marijuana: Easy as pie. Mmmm...pie.  You want to buy, sell, grow, cultivate or just talk about marijuana? You're in luck  the Internet is a veritable treasure trove of pot-related sites. You can read stories written by stoned people, stories about stoned people, stories about how much better life is when enjoyed in a stoned state, and even a smattering of stories detailing how incredibly screwed up people's lives have gotten because they've spent all their time getting stoned. You can also learn more than you (probably) ever wanted to know about different ways of getting stoned, and various ways to escape detection. This last category includes my favorite find, a site called, a service that promises to help you pass any drug test  guaranteed. Hmmmm. Prescription medications: No doctor's visit necessary!  This is where the Internet drug trade lives. First off, let's be perfectly honest: if you're truly desperate for the hard stuff, of course, it's undoubtedly faster to personally investigate local dealers than to wait around for UPS to deliver a fix. But if you're willing to wait a few days and are loath to leave the comfort of your home, your computer can provide a few options. Online "pharmacies" are everywhere; the domestic operations offer a limited number of relatively harmless prescription medications (including Viagra and the hair-loss drug Propecia), others (primarily Mexican) providing a larger selection, ranging from antidepressants to highly addictive opiates such as Oxycontin. Other big sellers: methadone, codeine, testosterone and anabolic steriods. It's breathtakingly easy to log on, pick a drug and place an order  all without the pesky inconvenience of a doctor's appointment. I quickly discovered that if I were interested, I could order thousands of dollars' worth of addictive opiates and see them land on my doorstep in less than 24 hours. Payment options are equally varied: you can pay $20 extra for priority mail, or you can have everything shipped UPS. Scrolling through the (minimal) shipping guidelines, some sites make it hard to ignore flashing disclaimers: "Some of our suppliers will send you drugs even though they violate the laws of your country. It is your responsibility to consult with your physician before taking any medication, and know the laws concerning the importation of scheduled drugs to your location." There it is, in black and white (or bright, undulating yellow): Ordering and/or possessing these drugs may be illegal. Does that stop you? It depends on your tolerance for risk. "This is a very fuzzy area of the law," says Dr. Frank Palumbo, director of the University of Maryland Center on Drugs and Public Policy in Baltimore. "I could see law enforcement going after you, because you're in possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription." Let's say you do have a prescription, written by one of the kindly docs employed by the offshore pharmacies. They asked you a few questions when you logged on, and dashed off a cyber "scrip" on the spot. Does that make your case any stronger, if, say, a customs agent opens your package of opiates en route from Mexico? Maybe, says Palumbo, and maybe not. "The Controlled Substance Act in the U.S. says a prescription must be written for a legitimate medical purpose, but the feds generally don't go after patients ordering drugs for themselves." Of course, he adds, if you're caught selling the drugs you've ordered, you're in deep trouble. What's the government doing to keep offshore pharmacies in check? Everything they can  which, quite frankly, isn't a whole lot. "The FDA has a major effort going on with regard to offshore pharmacies," says Dr. Palumbo. "They're really trying to keep a handle on all this," but they're stuck with fairly ineffectual techniques, like issuing email warnings. "They don't have jurisdiction over the countries where these pharmacies are located, and they can't flex the muscle of the U.S. government, so instead they try to work in cooperation with local governments." Note: The U.N. fears the Internet is providing a haven for drug dealers. But how easy is it, really, to find narcotics on the Web?Source: Time Magazine (US) Author: Jessica ReavesPublished: Wednesday, February 27, 2002Copyright: 2002 Time Inc. Contact: letters Website: Related Articles:Drug Activity Widespread on Internet Says UN Internet Aids Narcotics Trade Watchdog Says Drug Sales Booming
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on March 01, 2002 at 05:17:46 PT:
Lots of generalities, but no specifics
A few nights ago, the 'usual suspects' were enjoying each other's company in a chat room I frequent, when the inevitable happened: some clueless soul, no doubt either a reporter, a cop, or someone equally stupid, attempted to gain information on how to 'score on line'. He(?) was promptly informed that he would have to look elsewhere. I redirected him to DEAWatch (a site wholly dedicated to the blatherings of DEA Agents and their sycophantic groupies) to ask his query there; I informed him that they might be very interested in getting to know him.I have no doubt that journalistic fluff like this inspires those even less gifted mentally to engage in such pursuits; after all, we can hardly expect those who spend most of their time either fabricating or swallowing lies to be very discerning. But this also shows up the stunning level of ignorance the 4th Estate enjoys vis-a-vis the DrugWar. Ignorance which I believe is as willfully engaged in as that of the DrugWarriors themselves. I wonder how many African-American DEA agents know that they are the direct prosecutors of racial bigotry cloaked in the sanctity of law? Racial bigotry as exemplified by Harry Anslinger:""There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."Get that, all you Black DEA agents? You are supporting laws meant to oppress you. Do you enjoy the taste of spittle so much that you'll continue licking it off your face by carrying out this racist agenda for your daily bread? 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on February 27, 2002 at 19:19:49 PT
ekim maybe this will help Policy Forum of Pennsylvania 
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Comment #4 posted by ekim on February 27, 2002 at 19:01:40 PT:
does anyone know what has become of the Professor
at Penn State that was holding the smoke outs once a week. I think his name was Julius Hecklen. 
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Comment #3 posted by E_Johnson on February 27, 2002 at 18:36:00 PT
It may bring some web traffic this way
Well who's to know what genie they're letting out of the bottle.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on February 27, 2002 at 18:20:09 PT
you're so right
Time is a sensationalist rag. It actually used to be a good magazine, when I was a kid it was like "the Economist" is now. I thought after the stock market crash we were past all the "internet internet internet" sickening hype. We've all lost our shirts investing in the damn thing - enough already! It's a computer network, OK? Big F'in Deal!I've never known, or heard of, ANYONE buying illegal drugs over the internet.  The only people selling drugs over the net are Big Pharm - but I guess the UN doesn't care about them, does it?"Heroin: A little taste of history Again, plenty of opportunities to manufacture or grow your own stuff, "Oh, you mean poppies? The nice pink flowers my Mom had in our garden? "Also lots of paeans to the wondrous effects of heroin, most dating back to the 19th century, when opium was all the rage, and when kids were given heroin in the form of cough syrup."Yes, you're right Jessica, giving kids synthetic speed (Ritalin) every day for their entire childhood is much better than giving them an effective herbal cough medicine when they're sick with bronchitis.This type of stuff is scariest, IMO, it's the Mickey-Mouse journalism that dumbs-down the masses which enables the politicians to rule us.
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Comment #1 posted by Nicholas Thimmesch on February 27, 2002 at 17:59:28 PT:
More spoon fed pablum for Time
More spoon fed crap (is that word allowed?) from one of Time's lazy writers (it was the same kind of Time writers who wrote about how John Walters was going to be a "surprsing advocate of medicinal marijuana") . Notice under the marijuana segment there is no specific evidence of marijuana transactions via the internet, just goofy, novice quips about stoners. See for yourself: Time gets it wrong again. THIMMESCH 
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