The Web Revolution that's Changing How the World Gets High
Email this review


A comprehensive report on how the Internet has revolutionized illicit narcotic sales.

In his debut, investigative journalist Power, whose "interest in drugs stemmed from many enjoyable experiences...more than twenty years previously," provides a grand tour of the online “research chemical” scene and its evolution from an elementary marijuana distribution operation on a fledgling online network to a lucrative global industry. In his intriguing research, the author reaches back, from the cannabis experience of an adventurous Chinese emperor around 2700 B.C. through the psychedelic period and the rise of club drugs like MDMA to the eventual governmental crackdown against recreational drugs. Power cites digital technology as the instigator spurring the game-changing effects on the drug industry, streamlining sales with point-and-click simplicity. An interview with a distinguished octogenarian chemist responsible for “Spice,” a synthetic marijuana derivative, nicely dovetails with the author’s published 2009 series on a highly controversial Ecstasy and cocaine replacement called mephedrone. Power examines the thriving underground industry of pop-up Web shops staffed by rogue chemists who circumvent federal regulation by concocting newer, legal compounds and marketing them on cloaked websites like Silk Road, a “cyberpunk dreamland” drug marketplace powered by encrypted currencies like Bitcoin. These chemicals can be inherently dangerous due to their untested performance and dubious dosages. In the foreword, Power admits that since the book was originally published in the U.K. in 2013, many of the drugs touted as readily available in the text are now illegal to buy and sell, with Silk Road now shuttered by authorities, only to reappear in a different, fully functioning incarnation. The author rejects the aggressive policing of Internet drugs and advocates for improved harm-reduction for users with proper labeling and dosage indications as the “unwinnable war on drugs” marches on.

A compelling, accessible perspective on the global e-tail drug market.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1250054715
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2014


NonfictionAMERICAN KINGPIN by Nick Bilton
by Nick Bilton
NonfictionSMOKE AND MIRRORS by Dan Baum
by Dan Baum
NonfictionENDING THE WAR ON DRUGS by Dirk Chase Eldredge
by Dirk Chase Eldredge