Prescription medication is necessary, but it should be prescribed by a doctor. There are some illicit websites that sell prescription medications to anyone. You might think you can skip the expense and bother of visiting a doctor first, but this is not safe.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers advice about what to know before buying prescription drugs online.
When you purchase medications online, you also run the risks of buying fake drugs. You could get a prescription that is less effective or that contains harmful additives. Sometimes, these adulterants can quickly lead to overdose and even death.
In a 2013 article, USA Today discussed stories of people who purchased prescription drugs, such as Xanax and Adderall, online.
Online sellers may not always be reputable or verified, but customers often flock to them because they may sell medication at lower prices. The article mentioned that at the time of publication, 36,000 websites offered prescription medication, but only about 270 of these were certified.
The likelihood of buying from an unregistered seller is quite high.
Many people are tempted to buy prescription medication online if they do not have health insurance. Some websites do not require you to provide proof of prescription. While this saves money on a doctor’s visit, any site that doesn’t require a valid prescription is clearly selling medication illicitly.
People most often look for these medications online:
All of these medications require a prescription, but they are known to be used recreationally.
In January 2018, The Guardian reported that teenagers are buying Xanax online at high rates, usually via the dark web. The report mentioned several reasons why teens have been buying Xanax illicitly:
Many websites claim to sell prescription medication online actively encourage consumers to break the law. Buying a prescription medication without the right clearance is unlawful even if a seller from another country claims this will not be a problem.
One of the biggest risks of buying prescription medication online is ending up with counterfeit drugs that could harm you. On August 2016, CBS News reported that a person died after using fake Xanax in the San Francisco area.
The Xanax tablets had been contaminated with fentanyl. This synthetic opioid is known to be 100 times stronger than morphine. Some other findings from the report were:
A June 2014 paper from the American Health & Drug Benefits journal mentioned that counterfeit drugs have economic and public health costs. The journal listed the following risks of buying drugs illicitly or online:
If you decide to buy prescription medication online, only do so with a legitimate prescription from a physician. Only purchase from legitimate pharmacies that you are sure are operating legally in the U.S. If you spot any red flags, leave the site.
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A lot of people who purchase prescription medication online are aiming to abuse drugs for recreational reasons. Again, this practice is highly dangerous.
If you have decided to buy prescription medications online regardless, it’s recommended that you test the drugs. On October 2016, The Conversation mentioned that testing the purity of ecstasy pills at parties is a priority in Australia.
Authorities worry that if they promote illicit testing drugs at parties, they are sending the wrong message to drug users. A January 2019 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal shows that testing drugs can actually change attitudes when it comes to taking illicit substances. People may reconsider taking drugs altogether when they see how frequently they are adulterated with other substances.
The two most common tests include Marquis tests and fentanyl test strips.
However, this type of testing is considered low-tech. The Conversation says that reagent testing became popular at dance parties in the 1990s. Though this is not the most innovative technology, it can still offer some metric of protection.
In addition to risks of obtaining a defective product or a medication that is contaminated, you still have to worry about legal issues if you order illicit drugs online. In the United States, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)can legally take any of your packages if you have bought prescription medication illegally through a domestic seller.
This is called asset forfeiture, and the FBI describes this particular process as criminal forfeiture.
If you buy drugs from a seller that is not based in the United States, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can get involved.
They can also use asset forfeiture as a tool against you. In its mission statement, the DEA mentions seizing packages as one way they deal with rogue pharmacies and unscrupulous doctors, as well as anyone who sells drugs illicitly.
The United States Postal Service also has protocols in place if they suspect a package or mailing to contain illegal contraband.
Remember, if you have a valid prescription and choose to buy your medication online, there are ways to make sure your seller is authorized to sell your medication. Never purchase from a site that doesn’t require a valid prescription from a physician, and choose sites that are based in the U.S. with proper licensing.If you buy prescription medication for recreational reasons, you subject yourself to uneccessary dangers, including legal consequences. Fake prescription drugs come with a bevy of risks, depending on what is actually in the drug, including the possibility for fatal overdose.
(April 2019) U.S. Food and Drug Administration from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048396.htm
(June 2013) Shopping for drugs online carries risks. USA Today. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/odonnell/2013/06/06/online-pharmacy-counterfeit-drugs-prescription-dangers/2389219/
(June 2018) Safety and Potential Problems With Online Pharmacies. Verywell Health. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.verywellhealth.com/buying-prescriptions-online-pharmacy-safety-2614904
(October 2016) Packages Suspected of Containing Marijuana. United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.uspsoig.gov/document/packages-suspected-containing-marijuana
(October 2016) DIY pill testing – is it better than nothing? The Conversation. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://theconversation.com/diy-pill-testing-is-it-better-than-nothing-67234
Asset Forfeiture. U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/asset-forfeiture
DEA Asset Forfeiture. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.dea.gov/dea-asset-forfeiture
(June 2014) The Health and Economic Effects of Counterfeit Drugs. American Health & Drug Benefits. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105729/
(January 2018) Anxious teenagers ‘buy Xanax on the dark web.’ The Guardian. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/14/xanax-anxious-teenagers-buy-dark-web-tranquillisers
(August 2016) Fake Xanax can be a killer. CBS. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fake-xanax-can-be-a-killer/
(January 2019) Perspectives on rapid fentanyl test strips as a harm reduction practice among young adults who use drugs: a qualitative study. Harm Reduction Journal. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6325714/