Has Silk Road Killed the "Geographic"?

By Nathan A Thompson 06/12/12

A shadowy Internet service dubbed the "Amazon of drugs" makes scoring anywhere easy.

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And you thought waiting on your
Amazon.com package was harrowing.
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Many addicts have attempted the questionable "Geographic Cure"—physically getting away from your dealers and drinking buddies to try and start over. But maybe not so much any more: Silk Road killed it. What is Silk Road? Imagine Amazon.com. Now imagine that instead of books, Amazon stocked drugs, with each pill and powder listed alongside a color photo and an “add to basket” button. Billed as “the anonymous marketplace," Silk Road, which launched in February 2011, also stocks forged documents, paraphernalia—and even a few weapons. But getting on the service isn't as simple as pointing your browser to Amazon—it requires a bit of technical know-how. Users access the site through a special browser that hides their IP addresses, making it impossible to trace their movements online. The site itself redirects traffic through a random chain of computers around the globe in order to hide its location. Buyers and sellers trade in “Bitcoin”—an Internet-only currency that bypasses the traditional banking system. And the URL is mostly gibberish.

Some people see this as a positive development. Gerald, a current user from Peru, tells The Fix, “Silk Road is a safer alternative to copping on the streets or from a dealer. It eliminates the constant traveling and the transaction itself is much harder to find out about.” But the site has caused plenty of problems for Internet-savvy recovering addicts: “I relapsed all over that site when I found out about it,” Nick, a former user in England, tells us. “But it was actually a positive experience because it forced me to strengthen my recovery and not rely on the fact I physically couldn’t score in the area I was living."

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Nathan A. Thompson is the president of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia, where he has been based since 2013. He has reported for VICE News, the TelegraphGuardianSlateSalonand Christian Science Monitor both in Cambodia and across the region and currently works in editorial at ucanews.com. He writes travel articles, essays and released his first poetry collection, I Take Nothing Strong Only Lightning in 2016. Follow Nathan on Twitter.