Growing Internet Use May Help Explain the Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse in the United States

Published In: Health Affairs, v. 30, no. 6, June 2011, p. 1192-1199

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2011

by Anupam B. Jena, Dana P. Goldman

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The rising availability through the Internet of commonly abused prescription drugs has raised public health concerns. We examined whether the growth of US prescription drug abuse may be explained by the parallel growth in high-speed Internet use. We find that for every 10 percent increase in high-speed Internet use at the state level, associated treatment facility admissions for prescription drug abuse rose by 1 percent. Admissions for abuse of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, which are not readily purchased online, had minimal or negative growth during the same period. The results suggest that better surveillance of online prescription drug sales is warranted, and aggressive efforts to curb illegitimate online pharmacies may be necessary.

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