Mind Navigators of Chemicals' Experimenters? A Web-Based Description of E-Psychonauts
Papanti, Gabriele Duccio
Within online drug fora communities, there are some "educated and informed" users who can somehow provide reliable information on psychoactive compounds and combinations. These users, also called "e-psychonauts," may possess levels of technical knowledge relating to a range of novel psychoactive substances (NPS). The present project aimed at identifying and describing the e-psychonauts' socio-demographic characteristics and their motivations and patterns of drug intake. A netnographic research methodology, carried out through an unobtrusive observational approach of a list of cyber drug communities (blogs, fora, Facebook, and Twitter pages) was carried out. The fora posts and threads were accurately reviewed, analyzed, and compared using the empirical phenomenological psychological (EPP) method. Data were collected between January and February 2014. Psychonauts typically considered themselves as "psychedelic researchers," "new Shamans," "philosophers," or "alchemists." They appeared to be mainly young, males, unmarried, and Caucasians. They presented with good or excellent employment conditions and with a set of key skills, including attention to their inner "soul"; high standards of knowledge about drugs' chemical and pharmacological issues; and high levels of both IT skills and verbal fluency in reporting their own "on drug" experiences. The e-psychonauts seemed to "test" and at times synthesize a range of drugs to achieve the state of consciousness they find most pleasurable. There is the need to improve both the existing levels of professionals' knowledge on this novel generation of drug misusers and to design and develop novel prevention approaches that are able to attract the attention of the e-psychonauts.