Publications

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    Marie Claire, Van Hout, Tim Bingham
  • Marie Claire Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: Silk Road is located on the Deep Web and provides an anonymous transacting infrastructure for the retail of drugs and pharmaceuticals. Members are attracted to the site due to protection of identity by screen pseudonyms, variety and quality of product listings, selection of vendors based on reviews, reduced personal risks, stealth of product delivery, development of personal connections with vendors in stealth modes and forum activity. The study aimed to explore vendor accounts of Silk Road as retail infrastructure. A single and holistic case study with embedded units approach (Yin, 2003) was chosen to explore the accounts of vendor subunits situated within the Silk Road marketplace. Vendors (n=10) completed an online interview via the direct message facility and via Tor mail. Vendors described themselves as 'intelligent and responsible' consumers of drugs. Decisions to commence vending operations on the site centred on simplicity in setting up vendor accounts, and opportunity to operate within a low risk, high traffic, high mark-up, secure and anonymous Deep Web infrastructure. The embedded online culture of harm reduction ethos appealed to them in terms of the responsible vending and use of personally tested high quality products. The professional approach to running their Silk Road businesses and dedication to providing a quality service was characterised by professional advertising of quality products, professional communication and visibility on forum pages, speedy dispatch of slightly overweight products, competitive pricing, good stealth techniques and efforts to avoid customer disputes. Vendors appeared content with a fairly constant buyer demand and described a relatively competitive market between small and big time market players. Concerns were evident with regard to Bitcoin instability. The greatest threat to Silk Road and other sites operating on the Deep Web is not law enforcement or market dynamics, it is technology itself.
    The International journal on drug policy 11/2013; · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    Marie Claire Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: The online drug marketplace called 'Silk Road' has operated anonymously on the 'Deep Web' since 2011. It is accessible through computer encrypting software (Tor) and is supported by online transactions using peer to peer anonymous and untraceable crypto-currency (Bit Coins). The study aimed to describe user motives and realities of accessing, navigating and purchasing on the 'Silk Road' marketplace. Systematic online observations, monitoring of discussion threads on the site during four months of fieldwork and analysis of anonymous online interviews (n=20) with a convenience sample of adult 'Silk Road' users was conducted. The majority of participants were male, in professional employment or in tertiary education. Drug trajectories ranged from 18 months to 25 years, with favourite drugs including MDMA, 2C-B, mephedrone, nitrous oxide, ketamine, cannabis and cocaine. Few reported prior experience of online drug sourcing. Reasons for utilizing 'Silk Road' included curiosity, concerns for street drug quality and personal safety, variety of products, anonymous transactioning, and ease of product delivery. Vendor selection appeared to be based on trust, speed of transaction, stealth modes and quality of product. Forums on the site provided user advice, trip reports, product and transaction reviews. Some users reported solitary drug use for psychonautic and introspective purposes. A minority reported customs seizures, and in general a displacement away from traditional drug sourcing (street and closed markets) was described. Several reported intentions to commence vending on the site. The study provides an insight into 'Silk Road' purchasing motives and processes, the interplay between traditional and 'Silk Road' drug markets, the 'Silk Road' online community and its communication networks.
    The International journal on drug policy 09/2013; · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    Marie Claire Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: Background: The online promotion of 'drug shopping' and user information networks is of increasing public health and law enforcement concern. An online drug marketplace called 'Silk Road' has been operating on the 'Deep Web' since February 2011 and was designed to revolutionise contemporary drug consumerism. Methods: A single case study approach explored a 'Silk Road' user's motives for online drug purchasing, experiences of accessing and using the website, drug information sourcing, decision making and purchasing, outcomes and settings for use, and perspectives around security. The participant was recruited following a lengthy relationship building phase on the 'Silk Road' chat forum. Results: The male participant described his motives, experiences of purchasing processes and drugs used from 'Silk Road'. Consumer experiences on 'Silk Road' were described as 'euphoric' due to the wide choice of drugs available, relatively easy once navigating the Tor Browser (encryption software) and using 'Bitcoins' for transactions, and perceived as safer than negotiating illicit drug markets. Online researching of drug outcomes, particularly for new psychoactive substances was reported. Relationships between vendors and consumers were described as based on cyber levels of trust and professionalism, and supported by 'stealth modes', user feedback and resolution modes. The reality of his drug use was described as covert and solitary with psychonautic characteristics, which contrasted with his membership, participation and feelings of safety within the 'Silk Road' community. Conclusion: 'Silk Road' as online drug marketplace presents an interesting displacement away from 'traditional' online and street sources of drug supply. Member support and harm reduction ethos within this virtual community maximises consumer decision-making and positive drug experiences, and minimises potential harms and consumer perceived risks. Future research is necessary to explore experiences and backgrounds of other users.
    The International journal on drug policy 03/2013; · 2.54 Impact Factor
  • Marie Claire Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: The research was undertaken at a time of increasing public concerns for drug- and alcohol-related public nuisance in the city center of Dublin, Ireland. Rapid Assessment Research was conducted involving qualitative interviewing with drug service users; business, transport, community, voluntary, and statutory stakeholders (n = 61); and an environmental mapping exercise. The interplay between homelessness, loitering, an influx of drug users via city metro systems, transient open drug scenes, street drinking, drug injecting, intimidation, knife crime, and prescribed medication abuse was evident. Potential strategies to address drug and alcohol related public nuisance are advised to include the relocation of treatment services, targeted harm reduction initiatives, urban regeneration, improved community rehabilitation pathways, and heightened policing intensity.
    Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse 01/2013; 12(2):154-78.
  • Marie Claire Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: Detoxification from alcohol and/or drugs and the achievement of abstinence without formal treatment is often preferred using community-based supports from local GPs and family. Family members are often involved in the sourcing of information on detoxification and treatment options, user advocacy and provision of remedial supports while detoxifying within the family home. The aim of the research was to describe and explore family experiences of self-detoxification processes from the perspectives of mothers in the Mid West of Ireland. A convenience sample of adult mothers who had experienced their child detoxifying in the home (n=9) were interviewed. The findings illustrated varied personal definitions of detoxification. Addiction stigma and costly experiences of treatment and after care pathways facilitated home detoxification attempts. A lack of GP advice, support and information around safe home detoxification was observed to contribute to information and support seeking from friends, family and community members with home detoxification experience. Self-medication of both licit and illicit substances while detoxifying, and relapse cycles were common. The research highlights the need for inclusive health and social supports provided by GPs, community nurses, RGNs and district nurses for families and individuals detoxifying in the home setting.
    Community practitioner: the journal of the Community Practitioners' & Health Visitors' Association 07/2012; 85(7):30-3.
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    Marie Claire Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: Mephedrone injecting has recently been reported in Romania, Slovenia, Guernsey and Ireland. The research reported here aimed to describe the experiences of a group of Irish injecting drug users, who were injecting mephedrone based headshop products prior to the introduction of legislative controls in Ireland, with particular focus on pre- and post-legislative use, effects of injecting mephedrone, settings and contexts for injecting, polydrug use and serial drug injecting, risk perceptions and harm reduction practises. Following a predevelopment phase with a Privileged Access Interviewer, in-depth interviews using a phenomenological approach were conducted with eleven attendees of a low threshold harm reduction service. The findings describe the abuse potential of these mephedrone based headshop products when used by intravenous injection. Although participants were aware of risks and safe injecting practises, compulsive re injecting with excessive binge use over long periods of time was common. Nasal to injection route transitions, intense paranoia, violent behaviour and aggression, emergence of Parkinson type symptomatologies (in the form of spasms and 'wobbling'), and permanent numbness in lower extremities were reported. Multi and serial drug injecting with heroin was used in efforts to manage the intense rush and avoid unpleasant comedown. Participants reported limb abscesses, vein clotting, damage and recession resulting from product toxicity, crystallisation of the products when diluted and flushing practises. Seven participants were homeless, with groin and street injecting common. Following legislative changes use of mephedrone products declined due to closure of headshops, increased street prices, concerns around contamination and the emergence of new street stimulant drugs. Continued monitoring of drug displacement patterns in post legislative time frames is advised, alongside longitudinal ethnographic research to track the diffusion of mephedrone and other cathinone derivatives within injecting networks. Further investigation of the adverse health consequences of these drugs on injection is warranted.
    The International journal on drug policy 02/2012; 23(3):188-97. · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: On 23 May 2011, the Press Ombudsman of Ireland upheld a complaint lodged by a coalition of national and international drug services against the Irish Independent, the country’s largest circulation broadsheet. The complaint was filed by the International Harm Reduction Association, the Irish Needle Exchange Forum and the CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign, with the support of approximately thirty Irish drugs services and professionals.
    Human Rights and Drugs, Volume 2, No. 1, 2012. 01/2012; 2(1).
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    Marie Claire, Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: Specialist vocational training for ex-drug users include employment skills training, supported placements and thera-peutic work programmes. The research was peer led by Client Forum representatives of five 'Special Community Employment' schemes and aimed to explore participant experiences of Methadone Stabilization; 'Special Community Employment' schemes, and Vocational Outcomes. A Client Forum consultation (n = 11) and Client Forum representative focus groups (n = 2) were used to finalize interview questions. In depth interviews with a convenience sample of participants from 'Special Community Employ-ment' schemes (n = 25) were conducted. Content and thematic analysis of narratives was undertaken with Client Forum (n = 11) interpretative support. The findings are indicative of 'Special Community Employment' schemes offering methadone maintenance participants' the opportunity to commence recovery, engage in vocational training and reintegrate into the community. However, participation in these schemes appeared restrictive and operated primarily as therapeutic medium, with little individual vocational care planning, training or supported work placements. Many participants reported leaving these schemes unqualified, unemployed and experiencing little aftercare. The research underscores the need for extensive revision of 'Special Community Employment' schemes within an interagency approach, so as to provide specific therapeutic supports dependent on individual recovery stage, and client specific vocational training needs, certification, work placement and supportive aftercare.
    01/2012; 37:63-73.
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    Marie Claire Van Hout, Tim Bingham
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    ABSTRACT: Methadone maintenance treatment [MMT] is recognized as an effective treatment for opiate dependence. It is provided in Ireland in addiction clinics and for stabilized patients in primary care. The aim of the study was to explore doctor’s experiences of methadone prescribing, therapeutic alliance and methadone treatment pathways. Semi structured interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of prescribing doctors (n = 16). Thematic analysis of narratives was undertaken. Observations around MMT were positive in reducing harm associated with injecting drug use and opiate dependence, and represented an important turning point for patients. Doctor efforts to assist their patients were grounded in positive, empathic relationships. Some concerns were relayed with regard to prescribing restrictions. Participants commented on the need for policy makers to consider the expansion of MMT provision to include alternative pharmacological approaches, improved interagency, psychosocial and detoxification supports, community based nurse prescribing and adjunct treatment for poly drug and alcohol use.
    International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction · 0.86 Impact Factor

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