The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable

Making small talk with your pot dealer sucks. Buying cocaine can get you shot. What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Now you can: Welcome to Silk Road.

About three weeks ago, the US Postal Service delivered an ordinary envelope to Mark's door. Inside was a tiny plastic bag containing 10 tabs of LSD. "If you had opened it, unless you were looking for it, you wouldn't have even noticed," Mark told us in a phone interview.

Mark, a software developer, had ordered the 100 micrograms of acid through a listing on the online marketplace Silk Road. He found a seller with lots of good feedback who seemed to know what they were talking about, added the acid to his digital shopping cart and hit "check out". He entered his address and paid the seller 50 Bitcoins - untraceable digital currency - worth around $US150. Four days later the drugs, sent from Canada, arrived at his house.

"It kind of felt like I was in the future," Mark said.

Silk Road, a digital black market that sits just below most internet users' purview, does resemble something from a cyberpunk novel. Through a combination of anonymity technology and a sophisticated user-feedback system, Silk Road makes buying and selling illegal drugs as easy as buying used electronics - and seemingly as safe. It's Amazon - if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals.

Here is just a small selection of the 340 items available for purchase on Silk Road by anyone, right now: a gram of Afghani hash; 1/8th ounce of "sour 13" weed; 14 grams of ecstasy; .1 grams tar heroin. A listing for "Avatar" LSD includes a picture of blotter paper with big blue faces from the James Cameron movie on it. The sellers are located all over the world, a large portion from the US and Canada.

But even Silk Road has limits: You won't find any weapons-grade plutonium, for example. Its terms of service ban the sale of "anything who's purpose is to harm or defraud, such as stolen credit cards, assassinations, and weapons of mass destruction".

Getting to Silk Road is tricky. The URL seems made to be forgotten. But don't point your browser there yet. It's only accessible through the anonymising network TOR, which requires a bit of technical skill to configure.

Once you're there, it's hard to believe that Silk Road isn't simply a scam. Such brazenness is usually displayed only by those fake "online pharmacies" that dupe the dumb and flaccid. There's no sly, Craigslist-style code names here. But while scammers do use the site, most of the listings are legit. Mark's acid worked as advertised. "It was quite enjoyable, to be honest," he said. We spoke to one Connecticut engineer who enjoyed sampling some "silver haze" pot purchased off Silk Road. "It was legit," he said. "It was better than anything I've seen."

Silk Road cuts down on scams with a reputation-based trading system familiar to anyone who's used Amazon or eBay. The user Bloomingcolor appears to be an especially trusted vendor, specialising in psychedelics. One happy customer wrote on his profile: "Excellent quality. Packing, and communication. Arrived exactly as described." They gave the transaction five points out of five.

"Our community is amazing," Silk Road's anonymous administrator, known on forums as "Silk Road", told us in an email. "They are generally bright, honest and fair people, very understanding, and willing to cooperate with each other."

Sellers feel comfortable openly selling hardcore drugs because the real identities of those involved in Silk Road transactions are utterly obscured. If the authorities wanted to ID Silk Road's users with computer forensics, they'd have nowhere to look. TOR masks a user's tracks on the site. As for transactions, Silk Road doesn't accept credit cards, PayPal, or any other form of payment that can be traced or blocked. The only money good here is Bitcoins.

Bitcoins have been called a "crypto-currency", the online equivalent of a brown paper bag of cash. Bitcoins are a peer-to-peer currency, not issued by banks or governments, but created and regulated by a network of other bitcoin holders' computers. (The name "Bitcoin" is derived from the pioneering file-sharing technology Bittorrent.) They are purportedly untraceable and have been championed by cyberpunks, libertarians and anarchists who dream of a distributed digital economy outside the law, one where money flows across borders as free as bits.

To purchase something on Silk Road, you need first to buy some Bitcoins using a service like Mt. Gox Bitcoin Exchange. Then, create an account on Silk Road, deposit some bitcoins, and start buying drugs. One bitcoin is worth about $US8.67, though the exchange rate fluctuates wildly every day. Right now you can buy an 1/8th of pot on Silk Road for 7.63 Bitcoins. That's probably more than you would pay on the street, but most Silk Road users seem happy to pay a premium for convenience.

Since it launched this February, Silk Road has represented the most complete implementation of the Bitcoin vision. Many of its users come from Bitcoin's utopian geek community and see Silk Road as more than just a pace to buy drugs. Silk Road's administrator cites the anarcho-libertarian philosophy of Agorism. "The state is the primary source of violence, oppression, theft and all forms of coercion," Silk Road wrote to us. "Stop funding the state with your tax dollars and direct your productive energies into the black market."

Mark, the LSD buyer, had similar views. "I'm a libertarian anarchists and I believe that anything that's not violent should not be criminalised," he said.

But not all Bitcoin enthusiasts embrace Silk Road. Some think the association with drugs will tarnish the young technology, or might draw the attention of federal authorities. "The real story with Silk Road is the quantity of people anxious to escape a centralized currency and trade," a longtime bitcoin user named Maiya told us in a chat. "Some of us view Bitcoin as a real currency, not drug barter tokens."

Silk Road and Bitcoins could herald a black market eCommerce revolution. But anonymity cuts both ways. How long until a DEA agent sets up a fake Silk Road account and starts sending SWAT teams instead of LSD to the addresses she gets? As Silk Road inevitably spills out of the bitcoin bubble, its drug-swapping utopians will meet a harsh reality no anonymising network can blur.

Update: Jeff Garzik, a member of the Bitcoin core development team, says in an email that bitcoin is not as anonymous as the denizens of Silk Road would like to believe. He explains that because all Bitcoin transactions are recorded in a public log, though the identities of all the parties are anonymous, law enforcement could use sophisticated network analysis techniques to parse the transaction flow and track down individual Bitcoin users.

"Attempting major illicit transactions with bitcoin, given existing statistical analysis techniques deployed in the field by law enforcement, is pretty damned dumb," he says.

Red Star microdots. (Likely acid.) Price: 7.75 bitcoins ($67) for five. (All photos from Silk Road sellers.)

Edgarnumbers is selling these 2C-B "blue bees" tablets. Price: 1.15 bitcoins ($10) per tablet.

Avatar acid for sale by Bloomingcolors. "Avatar blotters are VERY strong (180ug per), and have been circulating around the EU for some time now. Ships sealed in an airtight plastic bag padded with paper in an unmarked envelope within 24 hours." Price: 2.42 bitcoins ($20) per hit.

Seller Greenco posted this time-stamped picture of his stash of marijuana in the forums to prove he was ready to ship ASAP.

1UP of Canada is offering 1/8 oz of "the infamous Jack Herer." He writes: "This is just classic stuff, well grown, well cured, well smoked." Price: 7.42 bitcoins ($64)

A satisfied customer posted this picture of the acid he received from a Silk Road seller in the forums.

Republished from Gawker


Comments

    Im wondering, for the stuff that says world wide.
    How the hell would it get through customs.

    Shhhhhhhhhhh!

    If that stuff is getting through customs then something here is VERY wrong. Perhaps they are inly opening DVD shaped parcels these days, looking for the far more dangerous Mortal Kombat.

    And what does this have to do with games?

      Hes a software developer. Odd segues ftw?

      Buy from Silk Road, play some games and you'll find out.

        +1

    Honestyly, a sales pitch for an illicit drug distribution site?

    This really shouldnt have been posted here... now people know about it :P

    Adrian Chen, i think i understand what you are trying to do here but this is extremely irresponsible. Naming the site and then giving step by step directions how to access it is not very ethical, especially when you add positive testimony. Whether or not you are pro-narcotics, the whole thing reads heavily as promotion and this is not really acceptable.
    I would suggest that both Adrian Chen and whoever let this go through get a hard talking to.

    Why
    Is
    This
    On
    Kotaku?

    I suggest a new meme, whenever Kotaku posts something irrelevant, self gratifying wank for the writer, or stuff like this we stop going through the usual rants about how this is a games site and simply say 'WITOK'?

    You are a video game site, when you are you do good work. When you add stuff like this into your mix you should do so realising that your demographic swings fairly in both directions in regards to age.

    This, is not the place for a story like this, nor is the context of it being so easy and anonymous things that you would want to promote when its in regards to drugs which have proven side effects and long term issues associated with them.

    For all the talk of wanting to be recognised for being mature, socially minded gamers, who deserve to be treated as adults, you sure do like walking the line.

    This is the sort of thing parents tune in to, and get the wrong idea about. The dark shadowy internet thats stealing their children, and whilst thats another debate entirely it gives them ammo.

    No to mention this reads like an ad, and completely pro, even referring to it like a facet of a game, with the addendum 'PEEPS MIGHT GET CAUGHT SOON'.

    WITOK guys?

      it's on kotaku because they own the site so they can post whatever the hell they like. Your mindless bantering shouldn't affect what they feel like posting.

      We should create a new meme where whenever someone complains about non-gaming related news we call them "newfags" and then reply with "tits or gtfo"

      Oh no, there is already a site for that sort of thing so stfu and complain somewhere else.

        Obviously, Dain Bramage, you have no concept of journalistic responsibility. Promoting illicit drugs and their distribution is entirely unethical.

        Then again, with your hilarious new idea, 'newfags', I suspect you lack the intelligence or moral fibre to really comprehend the issue.

        Owning a site does not give one an all-encompassing license to write what one wants and, when promoting the site as game-related, articles featuring illicit drug distribution are poor form both practically and ethically.

          Sounding quite dogmatic there. Drugs ruin lives but religion has ended more.

            Without getting into a debate on religion, how happy would you have been if an article was posted here suggesting everyone convert to Catholicism?

    Sweet. I know what im doing tonight.

    This isn't walking the line, this is boldly diving across it into the "marketing hard drugs to children" area. This website has a broad user base, including many young people. Quite frankly this is despicable.

    Reads like an ad is correct:
    Positive phrasing, rhetoric and hyperbole.
    Description of the service.
    Guided description of the ordering process.
    Step-by-step guide for anonymous access.
    Positive customer testimonials.

    Quite frankly, Adrian Chen has no business writing here any longer.

    Meh, I thought it was interesting. Way OT, but still.

    What do peeps think of bitcoin?

    Viva La Revolución? Or just a fad?

    The article itself is quite interesting, however why are you providing the URL, the instructions to use Tor and Bitcoins etc?

    Thank you "Mark the LSD buyer",

    I too think that anything that isn't violent shouldn't be criminalised.

    Oh you know, thievery, fraud, bribery, corruption, and all that are acceptable vices...as long as no violence right??

    Mark, quit buying LSD and put on some clean clothes for once and then we'll talk again.

    This screams ad to me as well. Really, this sort of stigma induced connection that game players are welcome drug addicts is poor form. Disappointed this step by step guide for drug buying was ever posted.

    Very interesting article!

    Probably the only irresponsible thing about it is that it describes how to access the site in a little too much detail. Otherwise a very eye-opening piece.

    Is it relevant? No

    Did I enjoy reading it anyway? Yes

    Meh, nothing that you dont get offered on a Friday night at the cross.

    Article is on SMH and everywhere else - I bet if it was the 24hour booze article no one would be angry at the Author. All he did was republish something else from another site, like half of the information here.

    I come here for game and tech news. The article is showing how cyberspace is evolving and how people try and abuse the anonimity of the internet.

    Its American based and an American story, the stuff wouldnt come through customs. I think you would be pretty silly to think that this 'Step by Step guide' will deliver anything other than psychodelic police officers beating down your door.

    This is nothing new, Tor networks and Freenet have been around for ages.

    Don't bother going there though, it's just stupid drug sites like this and CP everywhere. You'll get the police on your doorstep.

    This is pretty phenomenal. Not sure why there's so much "why is this on Kotaku" butthurtness - this stuff is pretty rare on the site, and it also comes from the US Gizmodo/Gawker site so it's part of the same publishing umbrella, and it's not THAT far off topic. As far as the ad stuff goes, it's not exactly condemning or condoning - and if you read the update re: the security of Bitcoin as a currency, then you can see quite clearly it's not recommending the service. Interesting article nonetheless.

    That was much more interesting than reading about whatever trash the 'developers' of Farmville are up to these days. Thank you, Mister Chen.

    What the heck, seriously? This must be the first negative comment I've ever posted in Kotaku, because I'm not prone to butthurtness, but this is extremely irresponsible.

    So, you do drugs and get away with and experience no major drawbacks from them (yet?) Well, that's awesome for you, I guess, and you are definitely free to do with your life as you wish, but putting this kind of knowledge where everyone (i.e. people who are not actually looking for this, but now will feel the stab of temptation/curiosity) can find it it's nothing short of monstrous.

    The fact that you have apparently a positive experience that you are able to enjoy with impunity, gives you no right to ignore that this stuff RUINS the lives of dozens of thousands of people around the world, both in the producing and consuming ends of the business and that you should not be aiding these numbers.

    I'm not sure if I'm more furious at the writer than disappointed at the editorial body of such big Internet site that allowed it to see the light of day. Keep your junkie advice for your junkie friends and don't dangle it in front of the eyes of people uninvolved with it. What's next? Hints on how to find child pornography?

      Unfortunately, this is a refeed from the US site, which we aren't allowed to remove. I agree with you, and the others entirely, but there isn't much we can do. :(

      Drug's don't ruin lives. People ruin lives. People who get addicted to drugs or have bad experiences on drugs usually do something wrong. A small percentage -- and believe me, that percentage is miniscule. I have no moral objection to this being here, but I feel that all you people getting pissed for this article being on here need to find something else to do. I would rather this information be on a more proper forum, a place where experienced people can give proper advice. I trust these sellers, they're good people (and yes, I have tried their product). They do not want this attention.

        Drugs most certainly ruin lives. Getting addicted to mind-altering substances does not require "doing something wrong", bar taking them in the first place. I have seen first-hand the destruction these products can bring to individuals and families.

        Arguing that "people ruin lives" is the same counter-intuitive, cyclical argument people use against gun control. Whether or not it's the user's fault, the fact remains that, if every single seller on that site was in prison, the world would be a better and safer place, and I have no qualms about saying it.

        Those that argue "drugs are harmless fun" are usually young people who have no sense of perspective or commitments. They haven't noticed the long-term health effects, or gone ahead and thought about the impact it's having and will have on their lives.

          Alcohol ruins lives. Alcohol and tobacco ruin far more lives than any other drugs. Should they be banned too? Even though they're a national passtime? Even though they serve cocktails in the whitehouse? This entire issue is political. I don't care how many lives drugs ruin (and they do ruin lives, ESPECIALLY in the gang warfare centred around the market and distribution of these drugs) I'd rather be allowed the FREEDOM TO CHOOSE as an adult and a human in the modern world.

            Alcohol ruins lives. Alcohol and tobacco ruin far more lives than any other drugs. Should they be banned too? Even though they’re a national passtime? Even though they serve cocktails in the whitehouse? This entire issue is political. I don’t care how many lives drugs ruin (and they do ruin lives, ESPECIALLY in the gang warfare centred around the market and distribution of these drugs) I’d rather be allowed the FREEDOM TO CHOOSE as an adult and a human in the modern world.

            If you want MY opinion, yes they both should be banned. The fact they're a "national passtime" is an embarassment. Regardless, Alcohol and Tobacco ruin more lives because they're legal. With the exception of Marijuana and its related substances, I'll concede, the majority of the products on offer through this site, such as Acid, are far more harmful to those that do use them.

            Freedom of choice is a common catch-cry, happy to accept the manner in which many of these products are produced. In choosing you're also choosing to set precedent and support an industry that will harm others in your generation and others. Quite frankly, if you're stupid enough to do hard drugs you obviously lack the intelligence to make decisions on your own and the government SHOULD make them on your behalf.

              Also, apologies for re-posting the message in there. Page is too long so I pasted it in while I wrote my reply. must have forgot to delete it before submitting.

                Actually, research LSD.
                It's one of the most harmless drugs on this planet.
                That is a fact.
                And the fact that you don't know this, and in fact by saying the opposite about LSD, it only shows your bias and ignorance.

                Though you are free to your opinion, an opinion I'm able to understand and empathise with. But regardless, I'm saying people will find ways to destroy themselves anyway, creating a black market doesn't help. Taking away the ease of which the government can support drug users and addicts doesn't help that. Taking away their freedom to use these drugs and taking away that power over their own bodies does not help either. It's a freedom I'd rather have, than be controlled for the sake of the ignorant or self-destructive.

                  I am aware that there are no documented deaths from LSD directly, but have you ever spoken to someone who took it for twenty years? Prolonged use will, in many cases, lead to significant behavioural and emotional disruptions, especially when paired with some of the other 'goodies' on offer here.

                  I have to protest that removing the supply of dangerous goods does not create a black market, those willing to breach the law for a 'fix' are responsible for that and any attached problems.

                  You claim that the government is limiting your control of your own body, but isn't that exactly what you're advocating in making these products widely available.

                  The effects of drugs are well published, so I'm not really inclined with the government spending my tax money helping the chronically stupid get back on their feet after losing their job due to a crack addiction. Why should these drugs be made legal, costing the average, half-sensible tax payer significant amounts of money to fund health care and rehabilitation?

        @TadMod: If that's so, then I feel for you. That's a shitload of bad rep this site just got (except among junkies.) It's there any way of putting a disclaimer that this article doesn't particularly reflect the views of Kotaku AU and that you don't endorse it?

        Rich: Where did you get your facts for "small percentage?" Nevertheless, if a "small percentage" of a number is still in the dozens of thousands (why do you think this is a concern for governments?) I'd much rather sacrifice the unnecessary and temporary ecstasy of the bigger percentage to save all those lives.

        Also notice that often, the ones more likely to misuse these substances are inexperienced youths, like a good percentage of the ones that come to this site and didn't need to find readily available information that will give them a chance to try stuff that they perhaps would never have otherwise or even think about doing it. Jesus, people, if this was only about pot, I'd keep my moral indignation to myself, but we're talking here of the HARD shit, the one that can seriously fuck you up! Putting this information where teens can easily find it, is akin to leaving sharp knifes where a toddler can play with them.

    I think this is great. This site will finally make it easier for people to expand their consciousness without having to deal with scary dealers selling ultra-adulterated product. I do not feel it was wise for this to be posted here, because it draws a lot of unwanted attention to the site that was supposed to be very underground and very secret. Now it will be easier for stupid kids and idiots to purchase this stuff. Most of the time, these idiots are the reason certain drugs are illegal in the first place! Thus, I feel that more people need to do drugs, but lease people need to abuse them. And for God's sake, who let this guy put this here? I would understand if this was discussed on some forum, but why an article here?!

    Regardless of whether you are pro drugs or not, this is not the place for this discussion.

    Those interested in the subject already have outlets, who cater for this sort of thing.

    This is a game site, and whilst as other posters have stated its their site and they can do as they like, using 4chan style troll tactics.

    Sorry to say that 'youre' the newfag here, the rest of us moved on from meaningless crap when we realised the real morons were encroaching on our turf, drawing borders and telling us where to walk.

    Meanwhile one day Kotaku wants to talk about how wrong censorship is, women's rights in video games, the next it wants to advertise a drug site.

    Wheres the integrity? But hey its video games so its okay that we dont hold our journos to the same bar?

    Sorry.. this is sloppy, badly written, opinionated, and reads more like something that sparked the interest of the writer.

    It has nothing to do with games, and was done either out of stupidity, or to gain easy hits.

    Drug availability is no major challenge for any individual given the money and inclination.

    It's unfortunate that some people still think the War on Drugs can be won by restricting supply when Economics 101 teaches you it's impossible to reduce consumption without reducing demand.

    Congratulations to all you heroes trying to censor this article on the flimsy premise that you are being exposed to something not explicitly connected to your interest in video games. You are single handedly saving young lives from the needle!

    The reality is that your overbearing attitude and refusal to engage in adult discussion will do very little to prevent your own children experimenting with drugs.

    Although I agree it's up to the writer's ethics whether he thinks it's appropriate to provide such a detailed instructional.

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