Drugs and the Internet
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, ever generation has had its own personality; its own new fad to inspire a whole new group of children and young adults, and to drive the elders crazy. The twenties had the Charleston, the fifties sported huge neon blue and pink finned automobiles. The sixties invented the hippie craze, and the seventies inspired the world with the magically funkadelic sounds of disco. The eighties were unfortunate enough to grace us with glam rock, big hair, and pastels. Nearly any member of the youth of the nineties surely would say that one of the most influential developments this decade is the Internet. The Internet has given everyone, regardless of age, access to never before imagined volumes of knowledge. Undoubtedly, if someone had the time to search, they could find anything they needed. Pornography, car racing, multi-player games, chat rooms, and shopping malls are just a finite portion of the content of the Internet. While some content is certainly beneficial to today’s Internet society, a large portion condones, encourages, and develops negative contributions to everyday life. One such issue, the avocation of illegal drug use through websites, Usenet, email, and countless other media plagues our society, especially the impressionable youth. The encouragement of drug use, and avocation of different methods of drug use enhancement is certainly harmful to society; the real question at hand is whether the U.S. government, or any institution for that matter, has an ethical authority to censor, regulate, maintain, or altogether ban sites that advocate illegal drug use.
With a simple search on the Netscape version of the Excite search engine, one can find a veritable gold mine of information on illegal drug use. Illegal drug use, in fact, seems to be the only major topic of interest in these searches. Take for example a search on “Marijuana”: 32700 links were returned on that search string alone, the top three all links to pro-marijuana use sites. One such site, High Times, has a magazine in publication as well. The content of these top three sites all tend to discuss the same issues: why drugs are good, why drugs should be legal, why we as a society should enjoy the benefits of using drugs, how to use drugs better, and how to maintain your health as you use drugs. Some websites actually sell drugs themselves, equipment to better use drugs, and drugs to make it look like a user does not really use drugs at all. While some people would instantly argue the existence of these obviously unethical knowledge bases, some Internet users would ask them to look deeper.
After scrutinizing some illegal drug use sites, one might find content that is less than malevolent in society’s general eye. One can find any number of health risk warnings, as well as sections pertaining only to methods of protecting a user’s body while taking his or her drug of choice. One such site, www.Erowid.org/entheogens/x/x_health2.shtml, defines actual dose maximums in order to prevent people from overdosing. The site also discusses the negative affects of the drug, including what foods to eat and what vitamins to take to counteract harmful effects on the body. After browsing through them, this site and many others seem to be concerned more with drug use safety for those that have already decided to take the drug, rather than promoting use, sales, and distribution.
Other sites seem to come straight out of the “hippie” generation of the sixties and seventies. Some sites are decorated with psychedelic images of love, peace and harmony, while others broadcast to the Internet community their love and joy of their personal drug use. One such site quotes:
“Respecting yourself between trips – learn to meditate and then practice
it regularly. Take care of yourself, get some exercise, get some sunshine,
get out in nature. Don’t have your whole life revolve around just tripping
and raving. Pay close attention to yourself and the world around you.
Realize that what you see in life really depends on what you are looking
for. Without any reason, do something good for yourself, a friend, a
stranger and some one you don’t like. (try to keep it simple and personal
Physically touch and be touched by people.
Smile a lot, laugh out loud.”
This passage clearly shows a general attitude of warmth and caring for people in general, and urges those who do use illegal drugs to see the beauty of the world for itself. As some drug users take on the attitude that drugs come first in life, all else behind, it seems that the general attitude, at least in the Internet community, is to love your neighbor regardless of your drug orientations. This brings up a quizzical point- the existence of drug related sites on the Internet are an issue of free speech, as long as they refrain from the actual sale of illegal drugs. Clearly an opinion, in this country at least, is completely uncontrollable. Whether a website urges someone to use drugs, use drugs carefully, use drugs in some new, experimental manner, or not to use drugs at all is not the point; the point is that they maintain the right to do so.
Regardless of the merits of free speech, some people may say that websites, emails, Usenet, and any other variety of Internet media condoning illegal drug use should be explicitly illegal. Some say that anything directly encouraging a dangerous treatment of the Human body, especially one directed, to an extent, towards minors, should be shut down in all media, Internet and beyond. These people fail to consider tobacco sales, television, candy, and countless other harmful, everyday, legal products. The very same people that disapprove of drug related media fail to point out the flaws of tobacco sales; first and second hand smoke can cause cancer, medical evidence proves. Ecstasy, a well known drug in the nineties dance craze, however, causes death in no more than 1 per 3 million people on average doses, as well as directly affected only its user, much unlike tobacco use. Parents watch and allow their children to watch television on a regular basis, sometimes in upward of five hours a day. Television fails to stimulate the brain, promotes laziness, and at times provides poor role models. Candy, a favorite for all ages, causes tooth decay, changes in metabolism, and in some children, can cause extreme hyperactivity.
Candy, television, and tobacco sales are all condoned and used by adults, yet they all cause some sort of harmful effects on the body. Not only are they harmful, but in some way they all seem to be addictive as well, much like a drug. Clearly it has been established that society’s resistance towards illegal drug use is a selective case, removing any possibility of an argument for the prevention of advertisements for illegal drug use due to the possible harm they may cause. Beyond that, free speech is in charge. Every citizen of this country has the right to express what he or she thinks, including the right to encourage and promote a better experience with drug use. With the small exception of websites that actually sell illegal drug materials, websites promoting drug use are scribed into the right of every individual, whether he or she is composing or reading. The government, U.S. or otherwise, has no ethical basis whatsoever to restrict, ban, modify, or monitor any of these sites based on encouragement of illegal drug use alone.