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Prescription Drugs and the Internet

Prescription drugs and the internetThe Internet not only has expanded our ability to be “in the know” about news around the world, but we also have access to anything we need and want at our finger tips. From dinner recipes to buying new gym shoes, anything can be found and done over the internet. Consequently, there are many elements accessible via the Internet that can be destructive, especially if fallen into the wrong hands. Firewalls and parental controls are becoming increasingly critical in monitoring activity done online when kids have access to a computer. One of the most pertinent and escalating concerns is the availability of purchasing medications, without a prescription, over the Internet through online pharmacies. A report released by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reveals that 85 percent of Web sites selling potent prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Valium and Ritalin do not ask Internet users for a proper prescription from a doctor. Many explicitly state that no prescription is needed.They use the statement of no prescription needed as a campaign to gain more clients.

Rise in Online Drug Pharmacies

A report, titled “‘You’ve Got Drugs!’ V: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet,” details the advertising and selling of controlled substances online. It is the fifth annual report on the subject. The report tracks the availability of prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin, depressants such as Valium and Xanax, and stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall.

The analysis showed 206 sites were found to advertise drugs and 159 offered drugs for sale. However, only two are “legitimate” pharmacy sites, meaning they have received certification by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS). To receive VIPPS accreditation, a pharmacy site must comply with the licensing and inspection requirements of their state and each state that they dispense prescriptions in.

The most disturbing finding, the authors write, is that “there are no controls on any of these sites blocking access by children.” Most Internet users are adolescents and young adults; 78 percent of kids 12- to 17-years-old have online access. Nearly all college students do as well.

Nearly one in five teenagers have abused prescription drugs in their lifetime, according to a 2005 survey.

Internet Drug Trends

Children and teen prescription drug abusers can easily gain access to the online pharmacies by typing in a fake age. Yet in some cases, a child may still buy and receive drugs by providing true information — even when their answers should raise red flags. A previous report revealed how a supervised 13-year-old ordered and received Ritalin after entering her own age, height and weight on a site’s questionnaire.

This report also reveals a trend in which many sites allow Internet users to buy a controlled substance after signing up for an online “medical consultation.” Visitors must complete an online questionnaire about their medical history before having their prescription filled. However, the answers may or may not be reviewed by a doctor. Such sales do not constitute a legitimate doctor-patient relationship, according to the study authors.

Other findings in the report include:

  • Half of the sites that require prescriptions allowed faxed copies, creating a “significant opportunity for fraud.”
  • The drugs most frequently offered for sale were drugs such as Xanax and Valium, followed closely by opioid painkillers including hydrocodone (contained in drugs like Vicodin, Lortab), codeine, and oxycodone (contained in drugs such as OxyContin and Percocet).
  • The number of sites offering stimulants for sale increased to levels not seen since 2004.
  • The report showed many sites do not require prescriptions:
    • 85 percent of online pharmacy anchor sites did not require a prescription to buy controlled drugs
    • Of that group, 42 percent specifically said that no prescription was needed
    • 13 percent never mentioned a prescription
    • 45 percent offered an “online consultation”
  • The study also shows that many sites get their drugs from overseas:
    • Slightly less than a fourth of online pharmacy anchor sites said the drugs would ship from a U.S. pharmacy
    • 40 percent said the drugs come from outside the U.S.
    • 36 percent didn’t say where the drug would be shipped from

Risks of Online Pharmacies

Many of these online pharmacies that do not require a legitimate doctor’s prescription are enabling prescription drug abusers to continue on with their addictions. They do not have to worry about being turned down by a doctor. It also eliminates the hassle of going to the doctor’s office. It is also risky for the users to purchase their medications from the Web sites that are not certified by the VIPPS because they can never be 100 percent sure of the drug and dosage they are receiving.

Prescription Drug Abuse Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with a prescription drug addiction, we can help. Please call our toll free number at (877) 571-5722. We are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions on prescription drug addiction treatment.

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