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Addicts may be using internet to buy illicit drugs, doctor says
Canberra February 2, 2004
Young addicts may be using the internet to help fuel their habit for prescription drugs, like tranquillisers, sleeping pills and steroids, a psychiatrist says.
With the expanding reach of e-commerce, internet-savvy addicts are now able to access their drugs of choice online.
Bernard St George, a specialist in child, adolescent and family psychiatry, said online pharmacies based in Mexico and through Asia would dispense drugs without a prescription.
Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr St George said although illicit drug use was not exclusively a youth domain, young people were the group most likely to be users and the most internet savvy.
He cited the case of a 20-year-old patient who had used on-line pharmacies in Mexico and Thailand to order up to 500 sleeping tablets, which were then delivered to the door.
Dr St George said it was unclear if this method of purchase was a big problem.
"(But) it may have the potential to encourage people who would not purchase drugs on the street or doctor shop to purchase drugs over the internet," he said.
Dr St George urged action at both a national and international levels to help combat the problem.
Australia's national drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), said it was illegal to personally import prescription medications but it was difficult to police.
A TGA spokeswoman said anyone bringing in prescription drugs into Australia needed written authority by a doctor registered in Australia.
"The TGA is very concerned about drugs obtained on the internet," she said. "Certainly it can take action, and does, against companies advertising in Australia but the TGA has no jurisdiction over companies from overseas."
However, the TGA had been working with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which belongs to a group comprising more than 30 countries dealing with problems stemming from international transactions.
Martyn Goddard, senior health policy officer for the Australian Consumers Association, said buying drugs over the internet was not only illegal but also dangerous for consumers.
Illicit drugs were not the only item of concern to the ACA. Consumers were being lured by products offering to cure problems like sexual dysfunction.
"You've got no idea of quality, you've got no idea of dose, you've got no idea of whether the drug is actually going to be as prescribed," Goddard said.