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Frequently Asked Questions About Erowid
Below are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about Erowid including information about our history, our goals and the site.


What is Erowid? #
Erowid is a small non-commercial organization that operates in the controversial and politically challenging niche of trying to provide accurate, specific, and responsible information about how psychoactives are used in the United States and around the world. We are committed to protecting the privacy of contributors and reporting on the topic non-judgmentally. Although our primary focus is on the web site, we also provide research and data for other harm reduction, health, and educational organizations.

Who runs Erowid? #
Erowid was founded in October 1995 by Fire and Earth Erowid. The site was a part-time project until October 1999 when it became large enough for Fire to begin working on it full-time. Earth joined her working full-time in March 2000. The site was run as a non-commercial business through 2007. As of January 2008, operation of the site was taken over by the newly formed non-profit Erowid Center. Erowid Center now has four primary staff members, two part-time staff, and dozens of valuable volunteers who help process incoming data, seek out new resources, and/or help keep the site up-to-date. For crew bios, see our Erowid Crew page.

What does "Erowid" mean? #
The word Erowid is a created word based on indo-european roots meaning approximately "Earth Wisdom". This question was answered more fully in the article The Etymology of Erowid published in Erowid Extracts No 2, from December 2001.

Where is Erowid located? #
Erowid does not have an office but is generally based in Northern California. The server is in San Francisco, California and all of the work is done remotely from staff and volunteers' homes in various parts of the world.

What is Erowid's History? #
The word Erowid was created in late 1994 / early 1995. The Erowid domain name ( at the time) was registered in April 1995. We began building webpages about "entheogens" in the late summer of 1995. By October, we had developed a small site which was publicly available, but hadn't yet been announced or submitted to search engines. In March 1996, we began submitting the site to search engines and the traffic began to grow. For more information see 10 Years of Erowid History.

What is # is an online library of information about psychoactive plants, chemicals, and related topics. The site is cross between a library and a journal, both archiving older historical documents and information as well as publishing new articles.

Why was Erowid started? #
Although the risks and problems of psychoactives are widely discussed, it's also clear that psychoactive plants and chemicals have played a positive role in many people's lives. Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of balance in the information provided by many resources. As our culture struggles with integrating the increasing variety and availability of these substances into its political and social structures, new educational models are clearly needed. Erowid is founded on the belief that a healthy relationship with psychoactives is one grounded in balance, where use is part of an active, intellectual, physical, and spiritual life. We believe that access to information is key to creating these healthier relationships with psychoactives.

How big is the site? #
Erowid contains more than 50,000 documents related to psychoactives including high-quality images, research summaries & abstracts, media articles, experience reports, information on chemistry, dosage, effecs, law, health, drug testing, and traditional & spiritual use. This includes about 42,000 text documents and 7,000 archived images. It takes over 37 gigabytes of disk space. (Apr 2009)

How much traffic does Erowid get? #
Each day, Erowid receives an average of 3.8 million file hits (445,000 page hits), with 24 gigabytes of data transferred. We get an average of 55,000 unique visitors a day, viewing about 8 pages each. We estimate that more than 12 million unique people visited during the past year. See Erowid Traffic Chart. (Jan 2008)

Where does Erowid get its information? #
The information on the site is a compilation of the experiences, words, and efforts of thousands of individuals including users, parents, health professionals, doctors, therapists, chemists, researchers, teachers, and lawyers. Erowid acts as a publisher of new information as well as a library for the collection of documents published elsewhere. Articles and information written by Erowid are researched using printed resources, web resources and input from these experts. Many articles are submitted for publication by others. These articles are reviewed and often edited before being accepted for publication.

How do I know the information is accurate? #
Erowid contains thousands of unique documents and images created and collected by thousands of authors, photographers, and artists. The information found on the site spans the spectrum from solid peer reviewed research to fanciful creative writing. We work hard to provide accurate information, but we also archive things like historical documents, experience reports, fiction, and satire which may be valuable despite not being "accurate".

The value of any specific piece is unique to that article and there is no way to make blanket statements about the "accuracy" of the site as a whole. Is a piece of poetry "accurate"? Is a historical document which describes the state of knowledge about a substance in 1750 "inaccurate"? As with all resources, the accuracy of each article or page needs to be considered on its own merits.

We have received over 100,000 experience reports submitted to us and have published over 24,000 as of November, 2015. Most submitted anonymously. These vary in quality from extremely reliable & well written to the poorly written and the possibly fabricated. The site includes fiction, humor, and satire including the Fosters beer LSD recipe. This article was originally written as a joke for usenet. It has since become a classic bit of drug humor archived on Erowid.

The standard format pages which exist for most substances (such as law, chemistry, effects or dosage pages) are generally written by Erowid and are maintained with the intention of being accurate. These pages have been put together from a multitude of sources and with the input of experts in many fields. Some of the information has never been published anywhere else (such as dosage information about uncommon illicit recreational drugs) and is based primarily on the testemony of those who have used a substance.

Is Erowid legal? #
The short answer is "yes, of course." Erowid does not violate any federal or state law and we work to be as meticulous with our financial accounting as we can be. Some people are concerned that simply providing controversial and diverse information about controlled substances (aka 'illegal drugs') could be a violation of the law. The issues are more complicated that a simple yes-no answer can provide, but generally there are two major components: first, 'illegal drugs' are not 'illegal' in all cases, and second, it is legal to talk about them as long as one is not otherwise committing, facilitating or encouraging the commission of a specific criminal act.

Many people need information about psychoactive drugs including doctors, lawyers, law-enforcement personnel, parents and educators, not to mention those most likely to be affected by their use. Controlled substances such as LSD, cocaine, and heroin are used for research and in a variety of other circumstances (drug testing, forensic analysis, etc.). Many substances are illegal in some cases and not in others: GHB is currently listed as a Schedule I drug (only allowed for highly-controlled licensed research) and also a Schedule III medicinal drug (currently being investigated as a treatment for narcolepsy). The issue of when and how drugs are actually illegal is something we try to educate the public about.

The First Amendment of the United States is a very strong shield against censorship. Just because the content we publish is disliked by some does not make publishing it a violation of the law. The main thing that we strive to avoid and try to train all our volunteers to avoid is providing specific advice to individuals that could be used in the commission of a crime. Although this limits our ability to offer direct harm reduction recommendations, we believe that it is important for our staff to conservatively follow the laws of the United States. For a little more information about this, see Publishing and First Amendment Case Law.

How do I cite or reference Erowid in a paper? #
Most citation formats now include a standard format for web documents. This format can be modified to fit articles by a single author, an anonymous author, or a "corporate" author (such as Erowid itself). See our page on citation formats for examples.

Where does Erowid's funding come from? #
In 2007, about 55% of our funding came through individual small donations and contributions. Another 40% came from larger donations and and the final 5% from miscellanous referral, research, and image/document use fees.

Why does Erowid need money to operate? #
The upkeep and development of Erowid is a 4+ person job. In fact we could easily use a dozen people working full-time on the site to keep up with the required updates, submissions, responses, and addition of new material. Three full-time employees are an absolute minimum to manage the volunteers who work on the site, keep the review processes for new content moving ahead, and keep the systems functioning. Funding is needed to support these person-hours as well as to buy hardware and software used in the development of the site and to cover other direct expenses such as scanning and copying costs, office supplies, and reference materials. Happily, since January 1998, the main server has been generously hosted by Hyperreal at no cost. Further, hundreds of hours per year of system administration are donated per year. Erowid also requires additional back-end servers for backups, upkeep, and administrative functions that currently cost us about $5,000 per year.

Why don't you put up banner ads? #
With the number of hits Erowid gets we might be able to make some money using the standard business model (banners, ads, and sales) but we feel this could negatively impact the integrity and usefulness of the site. As an example, information provided by companies who are selling vitamins, nootropics, legal highs or chemicals is dramatically more likely to be positive than that provided by third-party information sources who do not derive their funding from the sales of those substances. We want to avoid any conflict of interest which would lead to situations where our funding would increase if we change the information we provide. In addition, banner ads slow page loading time and clutter pages with flashing and distracting ads.

Can I pay for a link, banner ad, or other placement on your site? Can I give you a donation in exchange for inclusion? #
No. We do not offer paid advertising or sponsorship of any kind. Please see the answer to the previous question.

What is my donation used for? #
Donations to Erowid are used to support continued research and publishing in the field of psychoactive plants and chemicals. This includes website development, print publications, and collaboration on a variety of related projects as well things like hardware and software costs.

Is Erowid a 501(c)3 Non-profit? #
Erowid has formed a new entity called Erowid Center that received approval by the IRS as a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) organization in late 2007. Erowid Center began operations on January 1, 2008. Erowid Center has also been approved by the state of California as a tax-exempt corporation. Donations made to Erowid after Jan 1, 2008 are federally tax-deductible in the United States and possibly some countries that accept the IRS designation.

Do I get special access for joining or donating? #
No. There are no members-only parts of the site. Erowid memberships and donations help support the ongoing public publishing of materials, the editing and maintenance of current content, and the development of new systems for improving the site. Members also receive a one-year subscription to our print newsletter, Erowid Extracts.

Where can I get a banner to link to Erowid? #
Many people request banners they can use to link to Erowid from their own websites. You can find a small collection of available banners on our Graphics and Banners page.

Where can I get an Erowid flyer to print out? #
For those who want to print their own Erowid flyers, a small collection can be found on our Flyers and Posters page.

What software does Erowid use to create the site? #
We have a variety of software we use to create and serve We have an "Erowid's Favorite Software" page, but the site is run primarily on opensource, free software, using custom written software, some of which is available for free use. The server runs FreeBSD, mySQL, PHP, Perl, open-SSL, open-SSH, java, etc. The client machines of the editors and developers are windows 2000, linux, and freeBSD using a variety of software. We particularly love HomeSite, ACDSee, Photoshop, and ClipMate. Google is perhaps the best server based software we know of.

You can also read some very infrequent posts to one of our dev blogs, EroDevMisc that discusses some of our hardware and software choices and annoyances.