Debate On Recreational Drug Web Sites
WORCESTER, Mass., Jan. 27, 2003
"I thought, you know, hallucinogens were fun things to do on a Friday night," says a young man, who does not want to be identified.
The drug overdose that almost killed him came from an exotic combination of chemicals and plants that promised the high of his life.
He says the recipe for how to mix what he took came from an Internet site called Erowid.org.
Erowid.org is just one of a growing group of Web sites devoted to recreational drugs. There are links to everything, from how to make GHB to how to test ecstasy for purity.
But, as CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, Erowid's reports on side effects, on precise doses and its long list of recipes make it the encyclopedia of altered states.
It's well known on college campuses.
The young man who almost overdosed says: "I've seen kids with the drugs in their hand looking up doses all the time."
"I was stunned at the volume of information there," says Dr. Ed Boyer, an emergency room physician at the University of Massachusetts.
Boyer was on duty the night the young man came in unconscious. Boyer is worried about these Web sites being used by the young.
"I don't believe it's responsible for children," says Boyer. "It's just too hands on - too much of a cook book.
"Too much of a cook book for some of the substances."
But Boyer also uses sites like Erowid to stay current on the drug abuse he may have to treat.
"I use Erowid all the time," he says. "Every physician I know, every law enforcement person I know who wants to find out the very latest in drugs goes to Erowid."
The authors of the Erowid site declined an on-camera interview. But they defended their work by e-mail, writing: "We are a library" with "no interest in encouraging anything but learning and care."
Rick Doblin, who runs an ecstasy Web site, is friends with the authors of Erowid. The sites, he argues, are designed only to give the good and the bad of recreational drugs, not to encourage drug use.
"We believe the decision to use or not use drugs should be in the hands of the individual," says Doblin. "I think providing access to tools is not the same as encouraging people to use them."
For the young man who overdosed, and his parents, it's a cautionary tale about the freedom of the Internet. The Web gave him access to unlimited information, but that included a brand new way to flirt with death.