Since 2000, Erowid has received more than a hundred thousand reports and has published about a quarter of them.
Some are positive: “The Inner Eternity,” “Spiritually Orgasmic.” Others are not: “Existential Horror,” “Unimaginable Depths of Terror,” “Convulsions, Seizures, Vomiting.” Reports are reviewed by a few dozen specially trained volunteers, who range from college students to computer scientists.
“We emergency physicians pride ourselves on being pretty close to the street,” Boyer told me.
“Erowid just blew the doors off what we do.” According to the 2014 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, nearly half of Americans over twelve have tried an illicit drug.
They may borrow Adderall from a friend to work harder, or Xanax to reduce anxiety; they may use cocaine to have more fun at a party or ayahuasca to contemplate the great questions of life.
Today’s experimenters can also partake of many new psychoactive substances.
But during the aughts Boyer paid attention to assessments of new drugs as they went up on Erowid, and found that his emergency department did not receive an influx of poisonings.
Instead, Erowid taught Boyer the street names of unfamiliar drugs, along with the basic chemicals that they contained.Their names date from 1994, when, as recent college graduates living in the San Francisco Bay Area, they went to a Menlo Park storefront to sign up for a dial-up account and for their first e-mail addresses: [email protected] [email protected] live and work in a one-bedroom post-and-beam cabin, built in 1985 and surrounded by ten acres of forested land, on a high slope facing a ravine.You can’t tell a great deal about the Web site Erowid from its home page. page reveals, was coined with assistance from a dictionary of Indo-European roots.A tagline reads, “Documenting the Complex Relationship Between Humans & Psychoactives.” This text is surrounded by photographs: a cactus, a cannabis bud, a bottle of ketamine, tabs of LSD. It means, roughly, “earth wisdom.” People who are interested in psychoactive cacti, ketamine, and LSD are generally unfazed by strangeness. When the site launched, in 1995, it served as a repository of drug-culture esoterica, drawing just a few hits a day.Each submission is read twice, and the best ones are passed on to a handful of senior reviewers for final selection.