Emo fringes. Cargo pants. Baggy jeans. MSN. MySpace. Facebook. What do these things all have in common? They used to be cool.
Rusty antiques. Beards. Classic literature. The dark web. Instagram. Cocaine. What do these things all have in common? They were ruined by hipsters.
Once a place where you could buy plutonium and sell your spleen in peace (pieces?), the dark web is now suffering a street-credibility crisis, after certain forums have been gentrified faster than an inner-Sydney burb.
The dark web is basically an encrypted, underground version of Google that allows people to interact anonymously, leaving no digital trace of their actions. Notorious for some seriously messed up criminal activity (for those interested in this, see Eileen Ormsby’s expose, “The Darkest Web“), a Vice investigation has found there is a portion of the dark web devoted to discussing “craft cocaine” with Reddit-style earnestness and enthusiasm.
The difference is that, unlike Reddit, dark web communities know their words can’t be traced to their computer, leaving them free to discuss illegal activities as if they were talking about the weather. Although one might expect this to turn conversations sour or dangerous, it has actually led to previously “cool,” if creepy, morally bereft and illegal, conversations, to look like your mum’s Thursday night yoga group-chat.
According to this year’s Global Drug Survey, 17% of Australian drug users, 18% of American drug users and 24% of English drug users buy their gear on the dark net, and the percentage is climbing. This has led to a supposedly “health conscious” (read: pretentious) community of drug-takers who agonise over the quality of their cocaine as if it were a fine wine or particularly expensive IPA beer.
“They’re the coke connoisseurs… an ever-expanding gaggle of (mostly) men who take great pride in knowing more about blow than you,” (Vice).
Although users claim forums like this help keep drug users safe, experts have pointed out that it no matter how highly rated an anonymous dealer is—they are still anonymous. So (obviously) the only way to guarantee safety is to avoid them altogether. And reading through the comments, the users seem more out to impress each other, and boast about their experiences than they are chatting about safety. Here’s a sample of comments, to give you an idea:
- I feel it’s a top shelf. It feels cool and elegant to me and goes down a treat. Really enjoying it.
- It has no obvious smell, which I often find a plus and tasting a little dab on my finger I found it quite earthy.
- Oddly enough I think someone else mentioned a slight saltiness and I’d have to concur.
- I’m sure you guys know girls love coke right? Well I managed to (score… thanks to) so and so’s gear… hahaha.
Two other phrases often used describe dark-webbers’ coke’s smell were “petrol” and “organic”. According to the undercover Vice investigator, “Petrol means that it hasn’t been cleaned of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process, indicating an inferior product from a sloppy producer, while ‘organic’ means grade-A rocket fuel.”
But the question remains: is this just “cocaine-sommelier dickheadery” or does their knowledge sharing keep them safe? If neuropharmapsychologist and former government drugs adviser David Nutt’s words are anything to go by: no, sourcing higher quality drugs does not necessarily make you safer.
Although their forum enables them to share tips on spotting low quality cocaine, which enables them to consume less contaminants and cutting agents (like baby laxative or levamisole, a worming agent used on farm animals), which have their own set of health concerns, the other negative effects of cocaine usage, like, “Feeling anxious or impulsive, or finding the urgent rush of energy and raised heart-beat alarming,” (Vice), are actually more intense the purer the cocaine is.
“Cocaine is a vasoconstrictor, and the majority of coke-related hospital admissions are cardiac issues,” Nutt told Vice. “As purity increases, so does your risk of heart damage and overdose. The increased risk would likely be related to acute heart damage or overdose, rather than dependency, which is a chronic consideration, versus high purity on any given night.”