And we're not talking over-the-counter medicines here. In this amusing article by Ned Beauman on n+1, he explains the process involved in buying narcotics online, using sites like Silk Road. The only problem, as Ned notes, "In the old days, you knew what you wanted but didn't know where to get it. In 2013, you can get almost anything but have no idea what it is."
There are two websites where you can add a gram of heroin to your shopping cart as if you were buying asparagus on Fresh Direct. One belongs to Sigma-Aldrich, the St. Louis chemical company that synthesizes pure opioids for use in laboratory studies. For this you need to be a federally accredited laboratory. The other is Silk Road, the anonymous marketplace where drugs are priced in untraceable Bitcoin currency. For this you just need an internet connection.
Most of us do so much online shopping, and the interface has become so standardized, that the bland machinery of ecommerce is part of the texture of our waking lives: clicking "add to shopping cart" is like flicking a light switch. So although you might be perturbed if a salesperson offered you heroin from behind a department store counter, the aesthetic of the product page makes the transaction seem instantly mundane. Really, the only surprise is that Amazon hasn't gotten into the game already. It's strange to recall that rock music once made the act of buying drugs sound as mythically cool as the act of taking them. Today, Lou Reed would go to Silk Road instead of Lexington and 125th, and the man he'd be waiting for a week later would be totally unwitting, and from UPS.
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