The online prescription drug trade is a huge business with America being its number one customer. These orders from the U.S. are expected to reach $75 billion by 2010. This figure covers all prescription mediations, but a large majority of the orders are for controlled substances, such as opiate painkillers and benzodiazepines (Valium and Zanax).
The legality and risks of purchasing drugs online depends mainly on the specific type of drug being purchased. Ordering controlled substances for an overseas pharmacy is almost always illegal, but these laws are very rarely enforced. The act of importation a drug from overseas violates Federal Law 21 USC, Section 952 and carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and $250,000 fines for non-narcotic Schedule III, IV, or V drugs, which includes the benzodiazepines and the milder opiates, such as Vicodin, and Lortabs. The penalties are more severe for Schedule II narcotics, which would include OxiContin, Dilauid, morphine and other cancer-type pain medications.
Albeit these laws are not routinely being enforced because of limited manpower and law enforcement’s choice to go after the distributors of overseas drugs rather than the individual consumers. Ordering controlled substances overseas poses another problem in that when you receive the drugs you are then faced with the illegal possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription, a law that carries one year in prison and $1,000 fine.
A third liability lies with the fact that many of these imported drugs are counterfeit medications and are either much less potent or may contain hazardous and dangerous chemicals that pose a significant threat to the consumer. Ordering drugs on the internet from overseas’ pharmacies is definitely a case of “Buyer Beware”.
According to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, Customs and Border Patrol are NOT allowed to prevent people from importing FDA-approved prescriptions drugs, EXCEPT for controlled substances, where the Customs personnel are allowed to screen and intercept drugs being smuggled by individuals or by mail.
You need only look up online pharmacies on the internet to see how easily anyone can secure addicting drugs. In a time when drug addiction is significantly costing our society in resources and human suffering, it makes absolutely no sense to open other avenues where the public can bypass the traditional controls on the purchase of addicting drugs. These same drugs are highly controlled in the U.S. and consumers are aggressively pursued by local law enforcement for “doctor-shopping” and other activities to obtain these controlled substances. (Doctor Shopping is the practice of going from physician to physician with the intention of getting multiple prescriptions for addictive drugs.)
The number-one ranked request for drug detox and treatment in 2008 came from individuals that are addicted to prescription opiate painkillers and are faced with the painful withdrawal syndrome. Even the loudest of conservative voices preaching law-and-order, Rush Limbaugh, was arrest in 2006 on felony charges of doctor shopping for OxiContin. Prescription drugs are becoming the largest problem than street drugs; a situation that hasn’t been adequately addressed by the medical community.
With a global and historical perspective, it is easily seen that our efforts to prevent addiction are never going to be successful when we focus on interdiction and limiting access to drugs. When there is a public that wants opiates and other controlled substances, there will always be a means to deliver to the consumer, the latest being internet pharmacies. To have sustained success in lowering the numbers of addicted public, only drug prevention/education and treatment will demonstrate lasting success.