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Erowid itself is a small non-commercial organization founded in April 1995; the web site was first made public six months later. It is supported by donations; the site does not carry banner ads. They are committed to protecting the privacy of contributors and reporting on the topic non-judgmentally. Although their primary focus is on the web site, they also provide research and data for other harm reduction, health, and educational organizations.
Erowid can also refer to Fire Erowid and Earth Erowid, the pseudonyms of the two creators of the site. Both continue to work full-time on the website, along with appearing at conventions, producing original research, and contributing to entheogenic research.
According to the site, the creators' vision includes creating a "world where people treat psychoactives with respect and awareness; where people work together to collect and share knowledge in ways that strengthen their understanding of themselves and provide insight into the complex choices faced by individuals and societies alike." Erowid does not exist to encourage the use of psychoactive drugs, but to archive and disseminate information.
The library contains over 40,000 documents related to psychoactives, including images, research summaries and abstracts, media articles, experience reports, information on chemistry, dosage, effects, law, health, traditional and spiritual use, and drug testing. Over 50,000 people visit the site each day (June 2006).
An appealing aspect of Erowid is that anyone, whether a member or not, can submit their own personal experiences with psychoactive substances. The site states that they accept all perspectives regarding personal psychoactive experience, including positive, negative and neutral.
The site generally contains much more detail in the pages listed under plants and chemicals than other sections. It does not have comprehensive and collected information about the effects of pharmaceuticals, though the information may be available elsewhere on the site, possibly in the user experience "vault" or related pages.
Of note is that Erowid, acting as a library, makes no guarantee regarding the authenticity of its information, and states explicitly in its FAQ that "as with all resources, the accuracy of each article or page needs to be considered on its own merits."
Erowid also co-sponsors and manages EcstasyData.org, a street-ecstasy testing project. Tablets of street ecstasy can be anonymously submitted for testing by a DEA licensed laboratory and results are then published on the project's website. EcstasyData has published testing results for more than 1,000 tablets. Testing costs have sometimes been covered by project funding (when available) and at other times are covered by those who submit tablets for testing. Erowid took over management of this project in July 2001 and co-sponsors it along with MAPS and DanceSafe.
Criticisms and controversies
Due to the controversial subject matter presented in Erowid, the site has drawn praise and criticism from both the media and medical officials. American physician and broadcaster Dean Edell often recommends Erowid to listeners interested in learning about drugs and drug use. On the other hand, Edward Boyer, an emergency-room physician and toxicologist, while admitting that Erowid has a plethora of useful information, argued the site may be causing more harm than good to potential drug users. "Though Boyer has since come to cautiously admire Earth and Fire, and no longer refers to their site as 'partisan,' he still argues that Erowid minimizes adverse effects and includes too much dodgy — and potentially harmful — data in its quest to present all sides. 'Erowid is so comprehensive, and so much of the information is correct, that unless you're an expert in medical toxicology you may miss the dangerous information that's close to the surface.'"
It is currently blocked by Websense by its filters as "Inappropriate Content."
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