Brands and retailers adorn their businesses with illuminating information, also known as marketing, but the trustworthiness of their claims can fluctuate considerably. Examples can be found all too often in the drug trade, where the relation between fantastical promises, commercial transparency and actual effect can be especially disadvantageously skewed by dealers.
Ironically, the impersonal trade on the deep web black market could remedy this. And that's not just due to the eBay-style rating systems that let buyers know which power sellers they can expect safe deliveries from. It's also due to dedicated volunteers, like DoctorX, the deep web doctor you can trust.
"I do all of that voluntarily. But I do accept Bitcoin donations."
The dark net's extralegal territory has fostered a fragile yet completely open and transparent consumer culture, which would hardly be possible in the analog marketplace that's regulated by strict drug laws. However, a wild yet polite and customer friendly drug trade flourishes in the Deep Web.
Dr. Fernando Caudevilla, who is from Madrid, has been around on the dark net for a while. He is known there as DoctorX. After coming home from work as a normal family physician, DoctorX moonlights as an advisor to the deep web's drug users. He has answered more than a thousand questions in the forums of Silk Road 1, Silk Road 2 and The Hub, and is celebrated as a supporter of the community.
Caudevilla is active in traditional drug consultation at music festivals, and he also shares his knowledge on his blog, with a focus on the deep web. He believes that he can reach more users there and sees a more realistic consumer drug culture looming in the liberal black market of the deep web.
Not surprisingly, Fernando is a proponent of the full legalization of all drugs. He's for a stricter regulation of sale, just to ensure that only mature adults are able to enjoy these substances. We conducted a lengthy interview with him about drugs and the dark net by email so that he could share his knowledge and experience with us without disrupting his daytime family practice.
Motherboard: How much time do you spend each day working as a drug counselor online?
Dr. Caudevilla: I spend about two hours each day in deep web forums. I actually really like it. I would like to have more time for it, but my main job of being a family doctor doesn't allow it.
How many people do you think you've advised?
It's been just about two years and I've answered over 1,000 questions about drugs in forums of Silk Road 1 and Silk Road 2. People also ask me questions on The Hub, but I don't count them. My work has been interrupted at the moment, because Operation Onymous has also taken down Silk Road 2. But I think I will resume again shortly at a different post.
What kinds of questions are you asked most frequently in the Deep Web?
I mostly answer questions about drugs and health, from the perspective risks and harmfulness to the consumer. Once in a while I get a question that has to do with suicide. Like: What's the best way to kill myself? It's not always easy to tell what users are getting at with their questions. But I am nevertheless of the opinion that they should be allowed to be asked and there needs to be a place where they can be.
What I would certainly never answer are questions that are aimed at finding out how to harm another person—questions about the best date rape drug, or which substances knock people out. If I get the feeling that the questions are aimed in that direction, I vocalize how clearly opposed to it I am. If users have these kinds of ideas, they need to be criticized.
What do you think of the current drug laws in Europe?
Drug legislation in Europe is still relatively civilized if you compare it with other countries, like Singapore maybe, where smuggling even in the smallest amounts is punishable by death. Or think of Thailand, where you can get 15 years in prison for possessing 5 mg of cocaine. After all, in some countries you can't be prosecuted for consuming drugs. But I still don't think the relatively liberal laws go far enough. Drugs should be a question of personal freedom. And this freedom should be expanded to the greatest extent, up to the point where it poses harm or danger to other people.
Do you think the dark net could eventually influence lawmakers and lead them to make more lenient drugs laws?
In comparison with the global drug trade, the entire volume of drugs trafficked through the deep web is still very small. But I think the deep web will survive for us. In the next few years, it will even grow a lot. I think that that will also counter-effect on the inefficient drug laws that we suffer under today, and that it could support legalization.
Do you ever feel that people use you for your candor and availability when asking you questions?
I actually do it all voluntarily and for free. But I do indeed take donations by Bitcoin transfer in exchange for my work. Some of my clients have actually been very generous.
Do you see the deep web as more of a useful or dangerous technology?
The deep web and the internet in general is a tool that you can use for good things and you can use for bad things. Dark net markets offer some advantages as opposed to the traditional drug trade. For example, there's relatively good quality control with a minimization of physical violence connected to the drug trade.
"The War on Drugs has been lost."
I think there's a huge difference between selling goods for personal use and selling shotguns or child pornography. I think the police should concentrate their energy on the latter—activities that are objectively dangerous for people or societies in general.
What do you think about the "War on Drugs?"
The War on Drugs has caused many more problems than it has solved. Both on social and economic levels, as well as in respect to the drugs' quality and the level of hygiene with witch they're consumed. Think about the current difficulties with extensive drug criminality but also about the medical consequences of the trade in laced drugs, about the dealers' shadow economy, or about all the people who die of infectious diseases. Instead of being controlled by governments or companies, drugs are in the hands of criminals making billions off of them.
No matter what perspective you look at it from, the War on Drugs has been lost. It was a complete failure. It's about time we try out other measures and laws that more respectfully consider human rights and the rights of drug consumers. I think that we owe it to the victims of our failures over the last 100 years.
"I don't see myself as a psychonaut. I just want to share professional knowledge without passing moral judgment."
I should also say that I'm definitely not against prevention work in the classic sense. I mean the kind of work that aims to keep people away from drugs. I just happen to work in another area: prevention work for drug consumers.
What do you think about anti-addiction substances, like Baclofen, which are sometimes considered solutions on the dark net and that are traded there?
There are currently clinical tests to confirm the efficiency of Baclofen and comparable substances for addiction therapy. You can indeed treat addictions with Baclofen and other drugs, but it's important to keep in mind that addiction isn't only a question of substances and pharmacology. For successful treatment, psycological and personal factors, as well as social context, must also be taken into account.
What do you think of psychonauts, like the LSD Avengers? They're supposedly back under a new name. What role do these volunteer drug testers who share their own experiences in trip reports play in the community?
I consider every bit of information, that has to do with risk minimization, positive. In this respect, I also think the LSD Avengers' work is extremely important.
But the best, professional resource I know of for drug tests is the NGO, Energy Control, which I also work for. Anybody can send in drugs and we test them for their contents in the laboratory. At festivals we have a stand where we can tell you with a quick test whether you bought cocaine or baking powder with rat poison. In doing so we can also minimize the risks to consumers.
By now, we receive samples from the entire world that we analyze for 50 Euros and break them down completely to determine their contents. It's done by advanced payment, but if the pills get stuck in customs or we don't receive them, we send the money back. Anybody can send us something. But I don't see myself as a psychonaut. I just want to share professional knowledge without passing moral judgment.
Would you consider moving to the surface web to give advice, for example on sites like Shiny Flakes?
Of course! I enjoy the time I spend online and my conversations there, and I learn a lot from them. I would like to expand what I'm doing there. The problem is, like I said, that I don't have enough time to offer my services.
Is it true that you once saved a life? I read about a girl who overdosed that you saved because her friend followed your instructions. What exactly did you do to save her?
Somehow I can't remember the story exactly now, even though I kept running into it on Silk Road forums. I've answered more than 1,000 questions by now, so it's hard to remember each and every case. I also should say that the effectiveness of the information that I make available online has certain limits, of course. My online counseling can never be as specific as after a face to face interview. Nevertheless, I can say that I know of a few cases where my information was indeed very useful.
What do you think about cryptography?
Orwellian nightmares have become the reality of the 21st century: WikiLeaks, the Snowden disclosures, and the PRISM project. Intelligence agencies and governments are collecting our personal data without the permission or knowledge of citizens. Cryptography can minimize these problems. Here I would also say that technology never is per se good or evil—it depends on how you use it.
Do you think that the dark net offers a safer place to buy drugs than traditional street trade does?
The deep web markets offer a relative measure of control. They aren't perfect, but they prevent users from coming in contact with criminal circles. From my experience that's ultimately a very positive aspect.
This story was translated from Motherboard Germany.