Stupidly Misused Neo-Terminology: E-Psychonaut

In reading a recent paper by Schifano F, Orsolini L, Papanti D, Corkery J, we ran across their ridiculous term “e-psychonauts” from this and a previous paper.

It’s always sad to see people writing new articles, especially medical or anthropology papers that pretend that the use of electronic communication is somehow noteworthy or aberrant. It is not.

Vulnerable subjects, including both children/adolescents and
psychiatric patients, may be exposed to a plethora of pro drug web pages, from which unpublished/anecdotal levels of knowledge related to the NPS are typically provided by the ‘e-psychonauts’ (e.g. drug fora/blog communities’ members; [124]).

That refers back to a a paper from 2015 by the same authors.

The authors define the term in their abstract:

Within online drug fora communities, there are some educated and informed users who can somehow provide reliable information on psychoactive compounds and combinations. These users, also called e-psychonauts, may possess levels of technical knowledge relating to a range of novel psychoactive substances (NPS).

And then go on to tout how excitingly new the idea of “e-psychonauts” is, despite the idea of online drug geeks being not remotely new by any reasonable standard. Not new to published articles, not new to published medical articles, not new to agencies funding massive “web surveillance”, not new to the mega mainstream media scare machinery, not new to anyone.

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper represents the first systematic study aimed at providing a description of e-psychonauts, which may be of some use in prevention activities.

Demographics of online drug geeks? Not new. Perhaps it’s just a simple indictment of the “authors’s knowledge” and the knowledge of the article’s unnamed reviewers and editors.

The term “e-psychonaut” seems like it could be useful to mean psychonauts who are using new electronic psychoactives, such as electroceuticals, mind machines, transcranial magnetic stimulation, direct neural stimulation, or the like.

But, no, these authors and the terrible editors who helped them foist the term into the medical literature, seem to have missed that very approximately 100% of the adult populations under 60 years old in advanced countries now use “computers” or “electronic devices”. [To be clear, I know that it’s not actually 100%, it’s more like 90% of adults in the US under 60 years old, but virtually everyone /has used/ the internet.]

Perhaps in the 1990s it might have been helpful to distinguish between “psychonauts” who used electronic communication and those who did not. But in 2016? Not so much.

We appreciate that the authors and the low-end journals they publish in are willing to use Google to learn about “novel drugs” like 2C-B. But it really seems depressingly quaint in 2016.

As one indication of how well edited their papers are, in reading through them, I noticed this excellent reference in the opening paragraph of their 2015 paper “ [sic]”, cited to “ (accessed Jan. 22, 2014).”

Oops. Don’t they use spell check? Regardless of spell check, getting through publication with a sad typo in the opening paragraph indicates bad things about the publication’s editorial process and overall quality. In case it’s not clear, that’s a typo for is a long-squatted typo domain with no content.

Woohoo! New SSL Cert (4096 key)

Since all of our HTTPD traffic is forced SSL, valid credentials are required to prevent visitors to and from seeing a very nasty error message when trying to access the sites. With an expiration date looming, it was time to renew’s low-end SSL certificate. Why low end? Because we consider the browser certificate authority to be an illegal global racket.

First, the good news. Check out our “A” rating from Qualys SSL Labs:

SSL Labs A Rating of Erowid HTTPD Server Security
SSL Labs A Rating of Erowid HTTPD Server Security

We mostly achieved this a couple of years ago when our sysadmin team worked to eliminate all of the basic problems, like removing support for dangerously weak encryption ciphers and forcing more secure handshake methods. But, if you look at the Qualys report, you’ll see that our server doesn’t allow the known-broken encryption algorithms.

And, as of today, we’re trying out a 4096 bit key. Many of the sites I looked at suggested that the CPU load cost of doing the key negotiation wasn’t worth the extra security, but JL, our main sysadmin, said we should give it a try. We’ll watch the server load over the next week or two, but right now it seems fine.

As far as the rant about the global criminal conspiracy that is the certificate authority, well, I will leave that to others. To be clear, I think it’s all a money scam, facilitated by the browser folks.

We choose to buy a cheap chained certificate because of the usurious pricing of the better, greener, happier certificates. They punish us by making the URL bar not as pretty and also making the certificate viewing experience worse. Despite the CSR having all the right info, the $50-100 per year wildcard-SSL certs don’t display our organization name or location properly. Pay $200-1000 per year and, with no additional security, we would get a happy-looking green bar and Erowid displayed in the browser URL bars.

Snake oil forever.

As I was searching for an example of an expensive green bar, I discovered that trying to view the front page of CNN via SSL resulted in terrifyingly bad browser behavior. It looks like a hijack (MTM) or just fails.

I'm Glad I'm Not a CNN Sysadmin
I’m Glad I’m Not a CNN Sysadmin

In early 2015, Erowid joined EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere campaign, because we believe that, today, virtually no communications should occur online in clear text. It is a sad statement about humanity that most of us, including institutions handling sensitive data about us, still use  unencoded plaintext email that requires no warrant and is, essentially, a public broadcast.

P.S. In an insanely conspiratorial way, I believe that the NSA and other anti-public-crypto agencies have worked to torpedo efforts over the last twenty years to get email more secure. In the United States, a fig leaf of privacy is enough to trigger Fourth Amendment protections.

CDC : Start Low. Go Slow.

It’s nice to see the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), use the harm reduction message: “Start Low. Go Slow.” The concept nor phrasing are new, but we don’t know of any federal government education programs that have used this sane approach wording before. Anyone know of any government programs that have used “Start Low, Go Slow” before?

CDC Start Low Go Slow Campaign
CDC Start Low Go Slow Campaign