May 12th, 2011
The rising availability through the Internet of commonly abused prescription drugs has raised public health concerns. A new study released today as a Web First article by Health Affairs shows that a 10 percent increase in the availability of high-speed Internet service in a state was associated with an approximately 1 percent increase in admissions to a treatment facility for prescription drug abuse. The number of US households with Internet access increased from 18 percent in 1997 to 61 percent in 2007.
“Our work raises the possibility that the observed growth in US prescription drug abuse may partially stem from wider Internet availability through online pharmacies that sell prescription drugs illegally,” note study authors Anupam Jena and Dana Goldman. “Our findings provide a first glimpse that growing Internet use may partially explain why US prescription drug abuse rates have risen dramatically while other substance abuse rates have not. Based on our findings, recent efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to shut down illegitimate pharmacies not only seem warranted but may also lead to substantial reductions in prescription drug abuse.”
Jena is a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston; Goldman holds the Norman Topping Chair in Medicine and Public Policy and directs the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
To test the impact of wider Internet use on the frequency of substance abuse, Jena and Goldman measured Internet penetration across states between 2000 and 2007 using publicly available information from the Federal Communications Commission high-speed Internet deployment database. They compared that to data on treatment admissions to substance abuse programs in the United States during the same time period, culled from the Treatment Episode Data Set, maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
From 2000 to 2007, states with higher Internet growth experienced comparable increases in admission to substance abuse treatment facilities. During the same time period, admissions for abuse of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, which are not readily purchased online, had minimal or negative growth.Email This Post Print This Post