Psychiatrists in Switzerland have nearly completed their study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety associated with life threatening illnesses.
The study is the first of its kind to be undertaken in 35 years. Although most people associate the psychedelic drug LSD with the hippie counterculture of the 1960’s, psychiatrists had been studying the use of LSD as an aid to psychological therapy before it was federally banned in the United States in 1968.
Making small talk with your pot dealer sucks. Buying cocaine can get you shot. What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Now you can: Welcome to Silk Road.
Silk Road, a digital black market that sits just below most internet users’ purview, does resemble something from a cyberpunk novel. Through a combination of anonymity technology and a sophisticated user-feedback system, Silk Road makes buying and selling illegal drugs as easy as buying used electronics — and seemingly as safe. It’s Amazon — if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals.
Here is just a small selection of the 340 items available for purchase on Silk Road by anyone, right now: a gram of Afghani hash; 1/8 ounce of “sour 13″ weed; 14 grams of ecstasy; .1 gram tar heroin. A listing for “Avatar” LSD includes a picture of blotter paper with big blue faces from the James Cameron movie on it.
Getting to Silk Road is tricky. The URL seems made to be forgotten. But don’t point your browser there yet. It’s only accessible through the anonymizing network, TOR, which requires a bit of technical skill to configure.
Sellers feel comfortable openly selling hard-core drugs because the real identities of those involved in Silk Road transactions are utterly obscured. If the authorities wanted to ID Silk Road’s users with computer forensics, they’d have nowhere to look. TOR masks a user’s tracks on the site. As for transactions, Silk Road doesn’t accept credit cards, PayPal or any other form of payment that can be traced or blocked. The only money good here is Bitcoins.
Bitcoins have been called a “crypto-currency,” the online equivalent of a brown paper bag of cash. Bitcoins are a peer-to-peer currency, not issued by banks or governments, but created and regulated by a network of other bitcoin holders’ computers. (The name “Bitcoin” is derived from the pioneering file-sharing technology Bittorrent.) They are purportedly untraceable and have been championed by cyberpunks, libertarians and anarchists who dream of a distributed digital economy outside the law, one where money flows across borders as free as bits.