Prescription Drug Addictions Rise with Popularity of Online Pharmacies

Prescription Drug Addictions Rise with Popularity of Online Pharmacies

It is easy to understand why so many people are turning to online drug companies in today’s busy world. With our time-starved lifestyles, it is easy to find companies happy to accommodate – even without the availability of a prescription. It is also easy to be anonymous; there are no doctors or nurses to answer to. Finally, online medications are easy to obtain. If you have a credit card and access to the Internet, you are sure to find thousands of sites willing and able to provide you with your heart’s desire.

The dangers of ordering online seem endless. First, the person seeking the drugs has to try and diagnose his own illness. Second, there is no doctor exam or person familiar with his family history or allergies to serve as a system of checks and balances. Next, drugs could be expired or out of date. Lastly, there is also the risk that the consumer might be receiving medications that are counterfeit or worse, tainted.

The World Health Organization estimates 2010 sales from counterfeit drugs to be in the neighborhood of $45 billion, a figure that is up by 90% from 2005. In addition, figures collected by the federal government show that nearly 46 million Americans older than the age of 12 have abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime; a figure, they say, is growing. Of the most abused are sedatives like Valium and painkillers such as Lortab and Vicodin.

Experts agree that the Internet is playing a key role in encouraging abuse of prescription drugs. Because many “rogue” pharmacies operate overseas, it is difficult to regulate and enforce consequences for misbehavior. Many of the drugs provided by these pharmacies are being shipped into the United States because our consumers are the ones who can afford them. Because the drugs are being shipped to America, many of the host countries turn a blind eye.

Don’t expect American authorities to come to the rescue either. The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, says it simply does not have the time or manpower to go after all of the online perpetrators. In fact, they have fewer than 500 investigators seeking to prevent online drugs from being distributed via illegal channels.

Critics agree that reform has to come from within. Because of the difficulty in targeting providers of illegal drugs operating overseas, we need to look at other alternatives. Some suggest that the solution lies with three key groups: credit card companies, Internet providers and search engines.

Credit card companies, upon learning of unlawful distribution of prescription medications, should blacklist those companies, prohibit them from using their services, and report them to authorities, Internet providers and search engines. Internet providers can then provide filters to block the illegitimate suppliers. Search engines can help by posting warning banners when ads for questionable drug companies pop up.

It is important to note that not all online pharmacies are illegitimate. Online extensions of traditional pharmacies such as CVS and Rite Aid are still available and require a doctor’s prescription to dispense medications. With a focus on these types of valid online pharmacies and a little intervention from the above groups, we can take a step in the right direction.


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