May 18, 2007 - Since last year, 135% more web sites advertise prescription drugs such as Xanax, Vicodin, and Ritalin, and 7% more sites offer to sell the drugs.
The findings come from a white paper by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, New York. Research for the paper was performed by the corporate investigation firm Beau Dietl & Associates.
"The easy availability of addictive opioids, depressants, and stimulants has, for many children, made the Internet a greater threat than the illegal street dealer," CASA chairman Joseph A. Califano Jr. says in a news release.
It's CASA's fourth annual report on what it finds to be "this growing threat to the public health." Data for the report were collected by investigators who typed the word "buy" and the name of a controlled prescription drug into Internet search engines. One investigator also followed up on "spam" email messages offering to sell the drugs.
However, no effort was made to actually buy the drugs, nor did the researchers collect information on children or adults who actually made Internet drug purchases.
Drugs included in the investigation are prescription drugs controlled by federal law because of their potential for abuse.
Investigators found 394 web sites advertising controlled prescription drugs and 187 web sites offering controlled prescription drugs for sale.
The vast majority of these web sites -- 84% -- offered to sell the drugs without a prescription. More than half of the sites that did ask for a prescription asked only that the prescription be faxed.
The drugs most frequently offered for sale -- by 79% of the web sites -- were the benzodiazepines Xanax and Valium.
The second most frequently offered class of drugs was opioids, offered by 64% of the sites. Those most often offered were Vicodin, Lortab, Darvocet, and Darvon.
Stimulants were offered by 11% of the web sites. Those most frequently advertised were Ritalin and Concerta, followed by Adderall and Dexedrine.
Only four web sites -- 2% of the total -- offered to sell barbiturates.
CASA recommends that federal law be clarified to prohibit the Internet sale and purchase of controlled prescription drugs without an original copy of a prescription from a DEA-certified physician. CASA also recommends that the law require certification of all online pharmacies to ensure that they meet rigorous professional standards.
The May 2007 CASA report, "You've Got Drugs?" IV: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet, is available online.