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Russia Bans the Wikipedia of Drugs

Erowid.org's founder tells The Fix why cutting off access to reliable drug information is a bad idea.

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By Bryan Le

02/28/13

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Russia has reportedly banned online drug encyclopedia Erowid.org, under a new law aimed at blacklisting websites believed to promote pedophilia, suicide or drug use. Billed as a "a member-supported organization providing access to reliable, non-judgmental information about psychoactive plants, chemicals, and related issues," the site contains an autonomous online library, like a Wikipedia of drugs. According to a post and screenshot on Reddit, the site is the latest casualty of Russia's "very strong anti-drug mentality." Earth, Erowid's chief software engineer, tells The Fix: "This is the first we know of a major country officially blocking Erowid.” Many of the site's users are up in arms, claiming that access to reliable information is vital to helping "responsible drug users" to stay safe. "No fucking drug addict goes on Erowid to see what drug they are taking," says a commenter. "You know who does? Responsible drug users who want to be safe. This will only result in more drug use and injuries. I guarantee the number of overdoses will increase because of this." Earth agrees, saying blocking the site will only increase "access only to bad information." Plus, he says, the move is futile. “There is nearly endless information about psychoactive plants and drugs on the Internet," he says. "It long ago became impossible to stop people from accessing this sort of information online.” 

Some commenters believe that a lack of access to good information has contributed to widespread use of “krokodil," a popular and dangerous drug that reportedly rots users' flesh. Despite Erowid's take down, online drug market Russian Anonymous MarketPlace (the country's version of Silk Road), continues to thrive. Earth believes that his site was banned because it's an easier target, compared to more technologically savvy, profit-driven drug markets. Regardless, he says the site has no intentions of stopping their educational work. “We're disappointed to hear that Russia as a country may have banned Erowid,” he tells The Fix. “We will continue to provide resources and suggestions for how Russian users can access reliable information about psychoactive drugs, just as we do for doctors and other health care professionals who are forced to work with poorly-considered and poorly-implemented website blocking on hospital networks around the United States.”

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