Narcotics Sold Online, No Rx Needed
Study Shows Some Web Sites Lack Controls to Keep Kids From Buying Drugs
WebMD News Archive
July 9, 2008 -- Scores of web sites do not require a prescription to buy
narcotics, stimulants, and other controlled substances -- and none of those
sites has controls to prevent children from making such purchases, a study
A report released today by the National Center on Addiction and Substance
Abuse at Columbia University reveals that 85% 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.
"Anyone of any age can obtain dangerous and addictive prescription drugs
with the click of a mouse," Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman and president
of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and former U.S.
secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, says in a news release. "This
problem is not going away."
The 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 that fewer web sites are selling and promoting
controlled substances than last year (361 vs. 581); in the new report, 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.
Califano credits improved state and federal efforts to crack down on
Internet drug trafficking for the decline.
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% of kids 12 to 17 have
online access. Nearly all college students do, too.
Nearly one in five teenagers has abused prescription drugs in their
lifetime, according to a 2005 survey. Many think prescription drugs,
particularly painkillers, are easier to get than illicit drugs like cocaine or
Children easily gained 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.
(Do you buy medications online, with or without a prescription? We’d
like to hear from you on WebMD's Health Cafe message board.)