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Easy Access and Easy Danger of Prescription Drugs

Medicine cabinets used to be the easiest avenue for teenagers to acquire prescription drugs.  Outdated counteractive measures to restrict teenagers’ access to prescription drugs included counting pills, responsible disposal methods, and locking cabinets have been replaced with concerns about combating illegitimate online pharmacies as the new source for drugs.  Every day in the United States, 2 500 teenagers abuse their first prescription pain reliever and a growing portion of those teenagers are receiving their drugs from online sources.

Like any business, all companies are not equal in their field.  Companies that do not display care for their customers are ones that are most likely to abuse the system and in the online pharmacies industry, it is no difference.  The rogue companies that supply drugs without prescriptions are more likely to be laced with toxins or contain incorrect drug dosages, as they are in the business solely for profit.

A recent article from Warren County highlights a growing concern among law enforcement and parents regarding access to prescription drugs.  Local law enforcement stepped up local efforts such as drug take-back bins to restrict the access to prescription drugs with little effect on overdosing teenagers.  In the process, they realized that the large spike in the number of teenagers obtaining prescription drugs from online pharmacies.  In 2015, ABC News did a segment on these risky drugs and found that some of these drugs are made from pill presses and some even contained substances like drywall.

In a digital age, finding an online pharmacy is simple, which is the inherent danger in the industry.  Without proper knowledge to determine the trustworthiness of an online pharmacy, any child with access to a computer and a little money can stumble upon an online pharmacy that practices illegal activities, specifically ones that do not require a prescription to order prescription drugs.

“People are often not getting what they think,” Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy executive director Van Ingram said. “If it’s a person with a pill press and some rudimentary knowledge of chemistry, there is no quality control in that industry. You are getting what you get. This week’s batch may not be the same as last week’s.”

The barrier in restricting prescription drugs to teenagers boils down to parental awareness and the legitimacy of online pharmacies, specifically whether they ask for a prescription to acquire prescription medication.  The most commonly abused method of acquisition uses online pharmacies that only require information on an online questionnaire or phone call that does not ask for a prescription.  It is important to realize that teenagers can get their hands on drugs from their own rooms, which is why parents need to ensure that all teenagers are aware of the dangers of illegitimate online pharmacies.

23% of Americans turn to online sources to purchase their medication, mostly due to affordability and convenience factors.  Legitimate and reputable online pharmacies are quickly becoming a staple in the lives of many Americans who cannot afford their drugs from their local pharmacies.  However, the number of disreputable pharmacies are an ugly, publicized face of this industry that also poses a great danger to teenagers.

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-BS Pharm, PharmD, RPh

Dr. Paul Zickler is a graduate of the University of Wester Ontario in 1972. After graduating from the faculty of medicine, Dr. Zickler practiced as an Emergency Physician for 18 years. He has then operated ambulatory medical and travel clinics for 12 years. Dr. Zickler has become an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of British Columbia, a Director of Professional Programs for the Justice Institute of British Columbia (paramedic academy), a principal investigator for Phase 2 and 3 studies researching vaccines, and a founding member of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. Dr. Zickler is passionate about combining western prescription medicine and natural medicines.

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