Prescription Drug Abuse Increasing with Internet Use

Prescription Drug Abuse Increasing with Internet Use
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The growing use of high-speed internet is contributing to an increase in prescription drug abuse in the United States. The joint study from Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Southern California (USC), and published online in journal Health Affairs, found that the expansion of high-speed internet between 2000 and 2007 saw a large increase in admissions for treatment for prescription drug abuse.

"We know we face a growing problem with prescription drug abuse in the United States. One need only look at statistics for college campuses, where prescription drugs are fast replacing illegal substances, to see the magnitude of the problem," explained senior author Dana Goldman.

In fact, prescription drugs are "fast replacing" illegal substances on college campuses around the U.S. according to Goldman.

You've seen them, the proliferation of online pharmacies sending you email, advertising all over the internet. You may have even ordered from one legitimately, with a prescription. But did you really need it? Could you have gotten those drugs without a doctor's order? According to a 2008 study, the answer is a resounding "YES." In fact it is estimated that up to 85 percent of websites that market medications over the internet are selling extremely addictive drugs without requiring prescriptions for their purchase.

The 2008 study, performed by a group of Columbia University researchers, found that powerful pain medications such as morphine and oxycodone, as well as amphetamine stimulants and depressants like Xanax and Valium can easily be purchased online. Due to their strong potential for addiction and the likelihood of abusive use, such drugs are typed as controlled substances and regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), but somehow that doesn't seem to matter much.

Soaring Prices Contribute to Online Sales

The soaring price of brand name drugs in the United States has become so prohibitive that a growing number of Americans, out of financial necessity, are turning to the internet and its and foreign suppliers for their brand name prescription needs. Unlike the Canada, the United States does not impose price controls on its pharmaceutical companies, and consequently the prices Americans pay for brand name drugs is often much higher than what Canadians, for example, or citizens of other countries that have drug price controls, pay for the same medications.

To save money, some people are turning to internet pharmacies, and there are hundreds of them; some offering drugs for as much as 80 percent off U.S. brand name prices. With almost 50 million uninsured Americans, these internet sites don’t lack for customers. Some operate from U.S. soil, others from foreign countries; almost all get their brand name drug supplies from foreign sources.

Counterfeit Medications Add to the Problem

Of additional concern with online pharmacies is the proliferation of counterfeit drugs being sold. Counterfeit drugs are manufactured with inactive, erroneous, or even harmful ingredients that are packaged and labeled just like the real thing, so that you think you are buying brand name drugs or their generic equivalent. The dangers of these counterfeit drugs range from lack of effectiveness to toxicity that can be detrimental to your health.

Trying to determine if a drug is real or counterfeit is no simple task. Possible signs that may indicate that a drug is counterfeit include very low pricing, low quality packaging, and misspelled labels. In addition, the medicines may have odd smells, tastes, or colors and may break apart easily. Only by having a chemical analysis done in a laboratory can one be truly sure of the integrity of these medications.

If you choose to buy drugs online, follow the tips from the FDA's Buying Prescription Medicines Online Consumers Safety Guide. A safe website will have the following characteristics:

  • The site location is in the United States and licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating (check www.nabp.info for a list of state boards of pharmacy).
  • The site has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
  • The site requires a prescription from a health care professional licensed in the United States to write prescriptions for medicine.
  • The site will have a way for you to talk to a person if you have problems.
  • The site will have privacy and security policies that are easy-to-find and easy-to-understand. Never give any personal information (such as social security number, credit card, or medical or health history), unless you are sure the website will keep your information safe and private. Make sure that the site will not sell your information, unless you agree.

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