Is there a link between the expansion of high-speed Internet connectivity and rising rates of prescription-drug abuse?
Possibly, according to a study, "Growing Internet Use May Help Explain The Rise In Prescription-Drug Abuse in the United States"
published online in the policy journal Health Affairs.
"Our findings provide a first glimpse that growing Internet use may partially explain why U.S. prescription-drug abuse rates have risen dramatically while other substance-abuse rates have not," the authors noted in a news release. "Based on our findings, recent efforts by the (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration to shut down illegitimate pharmacies not only seem warranted but may also lead to substantial reductions in prescription-drug abuse."
The report is based on comparisons of U.S. Federal Communications Commission data on several states' rates of Internet penetration from 2000 to 2007 and U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data on admissions to substance-abuse programs.
During the study period, researchers determined that admissions for alcohol, cocaine and heroin abuse had minimal or negative growth, whereas in those states with higher Internet growth "experienced comparable increases in admission to substance-abuse treatment facilities," according to the release.
"Our work raises the possibility that the observed growth in U.S. prescription-drug abuse may partially stem from wider Internet availability through online pharmacies that sell prescription drugs illegally," according to the authors.