Curbing Drug Abuse; Legislation Closes Internet Loopholes

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Curbing Drug Abuse; Legislation Closes Internet Loopholes


Byline: John Horton and Kristi Remington, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The nature of America's drug problem is changing. No longer is the problem characterized exclusively by the stereotypical street-corner drug dealer with a bindle of heroin or a baggie of marijuana. Now, prescription drugs - which can be lifesaving when used under a physician's care - are being misused in record numbers. And the Internet - which promises expanded opportunity for legitimate e-commerce - is also home to a virtual street-corner drug dealer for many of our youth.

Prescription drug abuse is the nation's second-largest drug abuse problem behind marijuana and is the sole category in which drug abuse is rising.

Prescription drugs, particularly controlled substances like hydrocodone, can be every bit as dangerous as so-called street drugs when not used under the care of a physician.

In response to this demand, thousands of rogue Internet pharmacy Web sites have cropped up to provide, for a premium price, these highly addictive controlled substances to people who would otherwise not be able to get them from a legitimate physician. These rogue Internet pharmacy Web sites exploit an ambiguity in the Controlled Substance Act, the 1970s-era law that governs the sale of drugs with some potential for abuse and addiction. These Web site operators created a sham process allowing customers to fill out a short online questionnaire that a doctor uses to justify a prescription for a controlled substance like hydrocodone. The doctor never sees the patient and never verifies the patient's information.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from one parent who learned about this problem the hard way. Francine Haight will explain that her son Ryan was a good kid, a high school senior with a 4.0 grade-point average, athletic, competitive and popular. On Feb. 12, 2001, just a few weeks after his 18th birthday, Ryan died from an overdose of hydrocodone that he had purchased over the Internet without a valid prescription. The doctor that prescribed the drug had never seen or examined Ryan before issuing the prescription and did not know that Ryan was only 17 when he ordered the drug online.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jeff Sessions have introduced legislation to prevent other parents from experiencing the same horror as Francine Haight. The Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, which will be considered today by the Senate Judiciary Committee, brings the law regulating the sale of controlled substances into the Internet age and is a vitally important tool in our nation's anti-drug efforts. It should be sent to the full Senate for passage. …

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