| August 19, 2003
Deadly 'Drug Corner' Moves to Your
(Philadelphia, PA) -- If you're hunting
for illegal drugs, you don't have to leave your computer
desk to find them. A simple internet search will turn
up dozens of websites that let you order your drug-of-choice
In fact, if you search for "no prescription codeine"
through one of the standard computer-search systems,
the odds are almost fifty-fifty that the first site
you hit will provide an instant opportunity to buy drugs
That finding by researchers at the University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine will be published
in the August 20 issue of the Journal of the American
"This is unprecedented access to opiates, and it is
relatively undocumented," said Robert F. Forman,
PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department
of Psychiatry, principal author of the study, and a
member of Penn's Treatment Research Institute.
Using "Google.com," a commonly used computer search
engine, Forman and his Penn colleague, Ovgu Kaynack,
BA, found that 53 of the first 100 web-page links
generated by typing in the term "no prescription codeine"
were sites that offered to sell directly or indirectly
opiate medication without a prescription, and 35 of
those sites also sold barbituates, benzodiazepines,
hallucinogens and other prescription stimulants.
In many instances, Forman said, the only information
necessary for purchasing drugs through the sites were
a shipping address and a payment method.
He and Kayneck also found that about half the websites
were registered outside the United States. Some of those
sites pledged secure delivery of drugs by mail. One
site promised to "reship your order for free in the
event of confiscation." Another claimed, "There is less
than a one percent chance of your package being seized"
because of the "high volume" of mail-order narcotics
entering the United States.
"These websites present a significant risk to public
health. The uncontrolled access to prescription drugs
can lead to an increase in addiction and overdose deaths,
and yet children preparing a report for school may inadvertently
stumble upon a portal that leads them to illegal drugs,"
Forman said. "There is evidence that prescription drug
use among young people is increasing. We need to discern
whether law enforcement officials in the United States
can work effectively against drug sites that operate
out of other countries, some of which permit the sale
Dr. Forman's work is supported by the National Institute
on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network.
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