Erowid References Database
Boyer EW, Shannon M, Hibberd PL.
“Web sites with misinformation about illicit drugs”.
New England Journal of Medicine. 2001;345(6):469-71.
To the Editor: As part of our research on the relation between the Internet and substance abuse, we have identified several Web sites that promulgate information about illicit drugs. These "partisan" Web sites are easily identified by common search engines if one uses the names of illicit substances as search terms.1 With some pages viewed more than 160,000 times per day, partisan sites appear to be effective in reaching adolescents and young adults. In a recent study, 24 percent of college students used the Internet to obtain information on illicit substances, and 27 percent of Internet-using college students reported that Internet use increased the likelihood that they would use drugs.2
The popularity of partisan Web sites may arise from their plausible descriptions of the preparation, dose, administration, and psychoactive effects of drugs (Table 1). Partisan sites also offer recommendations for management of the adverse effects of illicit drugs. As one partisan site says, "it is up to the drug user to stay out of [the physician’s] hands."11 To evaluate the quality of such information, we conducted a survey of seven partisan Web sites. With high interobserver reliability (kappa=0.81) between experts unaware of the source of the information, we found that every partisan site made potentially harmful recommendations for the management of the adverse effects of illicit drugs. Information from partisan sites has been linked to adverse outcomes: some partisan sites have described their own role in the deaths of drug users and some have been implicated in poisoning from 1,4-butanediol.12,13
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