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The Dangers of Buying Prescription Drugs Online

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.

  • The doctor will ensure that the medication is appropriate for your condition. Self-diagnosis is not recommended.
  • The doctor can help you understand whether or not a prescription medication will interact with supplements or other things you might be taking.
  • Buying medication online is complicated because it is hard to know which sellers are reputable.

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.

Widespread Availability

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.

Most Popular Medications to Buy Online

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:

  • Some teens want to have the resources to help them deal with anxiety. Xanax might seem like a quick fix.
  • Others may be using Xanax recreationally for its sedative properties. They may mix it with other substances of abuse, including alcohol. Teens may be unaware of the risks of taking prescription medications when they are not needed.

Risks of Buying Medication Online

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:

  • The counterfeit Xanax pills taken looked almost like the real thing.
  • Some people who took these pills had respiratory and heart issues.
  • Fentanyl is strong enough to cause an overdose even at small amounts.

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:

  • What you receive may not have enough of the drug’s active ingredient to help you if you have a health condition, or the drugs you buy online may not have the active ingredient at all.
  • Prescription drugs you buy online may contain harmful ingredients, such as antifreeze and boric acid.
  • Doctors who believe you are taking a legitimate drug may decide your current dose is not working. They may prescribe a larger dose, and this could be dangerous if your body does not have a tolerance to the medication.
  • You might receive the wrong medication altogether. American Health & Drug Benefits described how some patients were using a form of Botox that was not approved for use in humans. Its use caused difficulty breathing for some people, including a medic who was injecting himself with it.

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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Purchasing Recreational Drugs Online

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.

  • Marquis reagent kits: These simple kits can be purchased online at a fairly low price. They are called Marquis tests after the Russian scientists who developed one of the first methods to test drugs and chemicals.
    Usually, you take a small sample of the pill you want to test, and the test’s fluid changes color depending on the purity of the pill. In the case of ecstasy, the liquid turns black or dark purple to indicate the pill has ecstasy. If you want to find out what other agents may be in it, you need to add more chemicals, and the test will show the presence of other possible contaminants.

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.

  • Fentanyl test strips: The risk of buying drugs laced with fentanyl is quite high. Fentanyl can be deadly in incredibly small doses, and it’s often cut into other drugs, such as fake prescription painkillers, benzodiazepines, heroin, cocaine, or meth. Dealers do this to stretch their stashes, make more money, and increase the intensity of the high.
    These test strips can detect the presence of fentanyl in a drug. If it’s detected in any amount, users can dispose of the drug altogether. The risks of taking it are simply too great.

What if Authorities Catch You Buying Illicit Prescription Medication Online?

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.

A prescriptiion pad with an empty prescription bottle on it

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.

  • If employees think a package may contain contraband, they are authorized to speak to a supervisor and report the package.
  • Packages are secured, and managers are now trained to deal with packages that contain contraband such as marijuana.

The Best Way to Stay Safe

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.

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