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Research Chemical Commentary

James Kent

The DEA shows no mercy when it comes to busting easy targets...

It is with keen interest that we here at received the news that five internet suppliers of "research chemicals" were recently raided by the DEA. These grey-market entrepreneurs have been lurking about the internet for a while now, and until recently their existence has been kept fairly secret. Even today, public posting of internet sources for grey-market analogs is strictly frowned upon, and unless you knew someone "in the knows," finding a reliable internet supplier was tricky business.

But that all changed a few months back. With the proliferation of decent unscheduled analogs came the proliferation of personal use and experience with these substances, and familiarity with them in the underground grew. Soon, exotic "research chemicals" like 5-MeO-AMT, 2-Ci, etc. were more available and in higher demand than good old mushrooms or LSD. Suddenly these were no longer "research chemicals," they had made that all-important shift in the underground to "designer drugs." In response, these research chemical suppliers started popping up all over the place, and even began listing their services in Google, which in turn pushed ads to this very website based on keyword algorithms.

When ads for research chemicals starting showing up on our site courtesy of Google, well, we were surprised to say the least. Although we saw it, we couldn't believe it. Research chemical suppliers were publicly advertising their services online, and Google was allowing it? Since these chemicals aren't strictly scheduled (though they are most likely covered by the Analog Act), we were curious to see how long this could go on before something hit the fan. And last week it did.

As you probably know by now, the DEA raided five internet suppliers, three of which (RACRESEARCH.COM, AMERICANCHEMICALSUPPLY.COM, OMEGAFINECHEMICALS.COM) had listings in Google's ad-words program, and had links pushed to our site through their adsense program. In fact, some are still showing up on our home page as of this writing, even though their servers have been shut down. I am not trying to implicate Google here, they probably did not know what was going on, but it speaks to the boldness of this latest round of suppliers, and how confident they felt peddling their wares right out in the open.

The websites targeted by "Operation Web Tryp" were slick and professional, and according to the DEA some were making up to $20,000 a week in grey market sales of unscheduled pharmaceuticals. Now this is big business. That translates into kilograms worth of active psychoactive chemicals shipping out of these places every week, enough funky white powder for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of trips every month. And from this vast research chemical empire, what was the impetus for the DEA to shut it down? According to the DEA: "These websites sold substances that led to the fatal overdose of at least two individuals and 14 non-fatal overdoses." Two deaths, fourteen non-fatal overdoses. Since April, 2002.

Two deaths? I don't want to trvialize these two deaths, they are tragic, but something doesn't seem to add up here. The DEA states: "This is a highly dangerous emerging drug trend. Because the recommended dosages can vary by as little as a milligram, any slight miscalculation can cause fatal results." But wait, since April of 2002, with over two years worth of ongoing investigations, in all of the millions of people who've been exposed to these dangerous research chemicals, the DEA can only find 2 deaths and 14 non-fatal overdoses? Hard to believe, isn't it? To put it in perspective, aspirin kills more people than that in a week. So what's going on here?

Obviously, these drugs are probably not as dangerous as the DEA would make them out to be, otherwise there would be piles of victim statistics for them to throw at us. So why did they go after these guys? My guess is because they were easy targets, there was an easy evidence trail to follow, and it made a good headline. Plus, these people were chemists and internet retailers selling drugs to middle-class white people (with credit cards), not the typical thugs with guns you would expect your children to be buying drugs from. Kind of reminds you of Ashcroft's sting on the growing menace that is internet bong merchants. Nice headline, little impact.

I'm sure the law enforcement people involved believe they are saving lives and dispensing justice by cracking these cases, but what are the long terms effects of "Operation Web Tryp"? Fifteen people were arrested and will face charges for selling analogs online, possibly discouraging others from being so bold in the future. But will it really? Maybe in the short term, but the market is still out there; who will fill the void? The time is ripe for scammers and rip-off artists to start peddling expensive bunk, and for offshore companies, smugglers, and neighborhood dealers to pick up the slack. The result will no doubt be inferior product at higher prices, and an increasing potential for adverse reactions and dangerous circumstances. The only thing that changes is the price, safety, and the quality of the customer service. Thanks DEA!

But putting aside the absurdity of it all, if the DEA were to look at the big picture they might realize there is an opportunity here. Private access to designer pharmaceuticals over the internet is not only the safest way to deliver drugs, but it is the easiest way to track where they are going and who is taking them. You could monitor personal use and instantly locate "bad batches" or people who were distributing bad product, abusing it, or selling it to minors. In short, it is the most effective way to privatize and decriminalize the drug market while still keeping it tightly regulated and transparent to fraud and abuse. Sound Orwellian? Yes, it is, but it works.

Why does it work? Because when people receive a professionally manufactured product clearly labeled and delivered in a sterile container they get it. If the pharmeceutical is pure and includes warnings and clear instructions the chances for abuse and recreational overdose goes way down. The context of the transaction does not lend itself to reckless behavior, and managing the context of the transaction is the first step in any successful form of harm reduction.

There are other advantages to this model. If you are able to monitor the individuals then the systems would be able to recognize problem signs, and (in a perfect world) offer resources to get instant free counseling while still online. This would only reinforce the context of the use as something clinical, not recreational, thus taking some of the fun out of drug use and turning it into more of a responsibility that is monitored very closely.

While this is in no way the optimal strategy for dealing with the issue, it would certainly cost a lot less than running long-term investigations that result in fifteen arrests and a temporary shut down in supply. Plus it would no-doubt save lives. If all users stopped copping on the street and did all their business on the internet through reliable supliers, the violent black market undergound would disappear, and America's "drug problem" would become regulated in a way that our current overburdened justice system could never compete with.

Of course, this model raises what some people might consider to be unacceptable invasions of privacy, but if you are already buying grey-markey pharmaceuticals online you are obviously willing to forgo some level of privacy. I doubt the powers that be would ever willingly shift to such a policy of passive regulation, but if they were ever considering it, controlling and monitoring the supply-side via the internet might be a good way to go...

Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2004-07-30 00:00:00