Have you heard of psychonauts? Chances are the answer is “no” because they are people who are doing things sensible people would not even consider attempting. Psychonauts is modern vernacular for people who test illicit designer drugs, justifying their actions in one of two ways. Some say they test the drugs so they can document and describe the effects and then let others know in online forums how it went in terms of physical and mental effects. The rest of the psychonauts admit they just want to experience new “mind blowing” experiences. In either case, they are sad people who are risking their lives to take dangerous drugs just for the fun of it.
What does this have to do with employers and the workplace? First, there is no doubt there are psychonauts who are employed since the majority of Australian drug users work. However, another important fact learned from psychonauts is the fact they are very modern drug users and dealers utilising a new drug distribution model. The psychonauts operate entirely online, buying and selling drugs on the internet and reporting the results of drug use in forums and chat rooms. They bypass traditional distribution systems like buying from street dealers. The only positive thing that comes out of their use of online forums and chat rooms is that it gives law enforcement opportunities to gain insights into the illicit drug market that they could not get otherwise. Law enforcement regularly monitors social media to detect new trends in drug use.
Not Who You May Think They Are
In reality, there are mixed stories on the extent of online drug purchases by Australians. Some studies indicate a growing problem, whilst others report the market has stabilised. Last month, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the University of New South Wales and a Research Officer at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, also at the University of New South Wales, conducted a survey on the topic. It found that the number of online drug retailers is growing, but a small percentage, only 3 percent, of Australians purchase their illicit drugs online. The researchers conducted the survey of online drug marketplaces during the period August 2012 to February 2013.1 The percentage is believed to be small because of Australia’s location and difficulties associated with shipping illicit drugs into the country without detection.
Despite education programs, many people continue to assume that drug addicts are easily identifiable and likely to be more like a street person than a professional working in an office. That assumption is wrong, which is why it is so important to have drug and alcohol testing programs in place in the work setting. There is no such thing as a typical drug user anymore. In fact, the psychonauts tend to be university-educated, young people who are good at understanding chemical combinations. They often buy synthetic drug ingredients and compounds through the post.2 The government move to ban all synthetic drugs that are psychoactive is changing once-legal purchases into illegal ones. However, either way it is safe to say that people enjoying the highs of synthetic drugs will eventually use traditional illicit drugs. Once again, employers need random drug and alcohol testing in the workplace because drug users commonly use more than one illicit drug.
Bypassing the Street
In the traditional drug testing model, the drug ingredients are grown by farmers and sold to manufacturers. The manufacturer finds exporters who have a delivery system in place for getting the drugs into various countries. The importers have groups of upper-echelon dealers who have established a system of street dealers. The street dealers are the people actually selling to the end-users. The psychonauts are skipping most of the steps simply by using the post to buy drugs directly from manufacturers.
Psychonauts are supremely confident, which is why they feel free to report illegal activities online. They seem to have forgotten they are human and subject to the same addictions as other people, no matter how many fastidious records they keep on synthetic compounds. Banning synthetic drugs and making them illegal will at least give the legal system the right to prosecute when the psychonauts get caught. In the meantime, employers need to continue religiously using high-quality drug and alcohol testing supplies like those CMM Technology (cmm.com.au) has designed specifically for workplace applications.
- Lucy Burns and Joe Van Buskirk. (2013, August 1). Shedding light on online stores for illicit and synthetic drugs. Retrieved from The Conversation: http://bit.ly/J7vq2N
- Greg Bearup. (2013, July 6). Synthetic drugs scourge spreads. Retrieved from The Australian – National Affairs: http://bit.ly/JL8FD9