Psychedelic drugs just a click away online

The Internet has become a rapidly growing supermarket for herbs, mushrooms and other substances that will get you high-but may also make you very sick.

Appetite for Online Psychedelics Strong

Court records indicate that Racesearch.com, one of the sites shut down by Operation Web Tryp, had netted $500,000 over a 14-month period, suggesting that a substantial market existed online for its products (which included psychoactive substances).

Page-view records indicate that sites selling psychoactive substances are growing in popularity. Web site traffic-monitoring firms Compete and Quantcast show an uptick in unique monthly visitors over the past year at a number of sites that sell legal herbs.

For example, according to Compete's records, the number of unique visitors to Bouncing Bear Botanicals has grown by 32 percent over the past year to as many as 37,000 each month--about the same traffic that Frito-Lay's Cheetos.com Web site receives.

Traffic to smaller sites such as Pure Land Ethnobotanicals is growing quickly, too. There, the number of unique visitors has risen to 22,000 per month--an 86 percent increase over the previous month, according to Compete.

As increased media attention raises public awareness of how easy psychoactive substances are to find online, support for increased regulation seems to be growing. Even salvia user Frank Ramirez says that he supports age restrictions on who can buy salvia. But he says that outlawing herbs such as salvia would be going too far. For his part, Sloan says that as salvia is starting to be criminalized, kratom is gaining in popularity.

Meanwhile, people whose lives have been affected by others' use of natural highs vow to raise public awareness and press for new laws.

"It's too late for my son, but people really need to educate themselves with accurate information about the risks of taking these drugs," says Toppin Hodge. "If you ask me, there really isn't any safe limit."

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Tom Spring

PC World (US online)
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