The Hidden Dangers of Buying Prescription Drugs Online
The abuse of painkillers, anti-anxiety medicines and stimulants is claiming more lives than ever before. Here we look at the very real dangers of buying prescription drugs online.
One of the greatest misconceptions about substance abuse disorders is that illegal drugs are more dangerous than their prescription counterparts. While this may have been the case a few years ago, overdose deaths associated with ‘legal’ prescription drugs have now outstripped those associated with drugs like heroin and cocaine in many places.
In the US, for example, more people died from overdosing on prescription opioid painkillers than from heroin in 2015. Anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines (benzos), meanwhile, claimed more lives than cocaine. As prescription drugs become more easily available to more people around the world, both legally and illegally, the demand for prescription drug addiction treatment is rising.
While over-prescription and mismanagement of addictive prescription drugs is certainly part of the problem, the easy availability of opioid painkillers, benzos and ‘smart drugs’ online is exacerbating the problem.
More Singaporeans are Ordering Drugs Online
Recent figures released by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) show a sharp rise in the number of people in Singapore charged for buying drugs online, from 30 in 2015 to more than 200 last year.
“It has become easy for anyone to order items on the Internet and have them delivered by post or courier,” the CNB said in a statement. “Drug syndicates and peddlers have taken advantage of the borderless nature of the Internet conduct illegal drug activities.”
The CNB’s figures, however, do not include the purchase of prescription drugs online. In fact, figures on the abuse of prescription drugs are notably hard to come by. In a country where the penalties for use of illegal drugs are so harsh, the risk of abuse of ‘legal’ drugs such as opioid painkillers and ‘smart drugs’ would seem particularly high.
While statistical evidence may be lacking, Singaporean authorities do appear to be aware of the potential risks. The Health Sciences Authority has published information on the dangers of buying ‘health products’ online, warning that “it is illegal for anyone to import or bring into Singapore any medicinal product without approval from HSA.”
What Are the Risks of Pharmaceutical Shopping on the Internet?
Aside from the fact that buying prescription drugs from unapproved sources online is illegal and may result in severe penalties, it also presents number of severe risks to your health:
Increased Risk of Addiction and Overdose
Many prescription medicines are addictive and can be fatal if not used properly. The use of opioids, anti-anxiety medicines, stimulants and ‘smart drugs’ should be closely monitored by medical professionals to keep negative side effects to a minimum. Self-medicating with any of these drugs can quickly lead to addiction or even overdose.
You Don’t Know What You’re Getting
Many ‘legal’ drugs bought online are produced by unknown sources and the quality can vary significantly. Often, the medicines will not contain the stated dose of the active ingredient, particularly dangerous with opioids and central nervous system depressants. Medicines have also been found to contain dangerous contaminants such as heavy metals, floor wax and paint.
Withdrawal from certain medicines can be quite dangerous and should be closely supervised by medical professionals. If you feel you may have formed a dependence on any medicine bought online you should seek prescription drug addiction treatment immediately to ensure a safe and successful recovery.
How to Protect Yourself When Buying Medication Online
The sale of unapproved medicines online is big business and it can often be difficult to tell fraudulent online pharmacies from their legitimate counterparts. Here are some tips to help you avoid buying illegal and potentially dangerous medicines online:
- Avoid all online pharmacies based outside Singapore.
- Ensure the website is fully licensed by the relevant authorities.
- Avoid websites offering very low drug prices that seem too good to be true.
- Do not use any services that send unsolicited or spam email advertising their products.
- Avoid any website that allows you to buy medicine without a prescription.
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
The signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction can vary significantly depending on the drug. That said, the most abused and most dangerous types of prescription drug can be divided into three clear categories:
Highly effective against pain, opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl are also very addictive. Symptoms of abuse can include drowsiness, confusion, slow breathing, euphoria, nausea and euphoria. Opioids also carry a high risk of fatal overdose.
Anti-anxiety Medications and Sedatives
Normally prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, medicines such Xanax and Valium are also considered highly addictive. Symptoms of abuse include drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, poor concentration and poor coordination.
Medications such as Adderall and Ritalin (often known as ‘smart drugs’) are prescribed to children and adults with ADHD can can have severe physical and psychological side effects. Symptoms of abuse include insomnia, agitation, anxiety, paranoia and, in severe cases, psychosis.
There are also a number of warning signs that relevant to all prescription drugs, including poor decision-making, mood swings or taking higher-than-recommended doses. If you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms it may be time to seek the help of a qualified addiction counsellor.
Getting Help for Rx Drug Addiction
By far the most effective way to treat prescription drug abuse or dependence is comprehensive care at a recognised rehab centre that’s equipped to treat a range of substance abuse disorders. The exact treatment program will depend on the nature of your dependency, but almost all include the core elements of detox, counselling and aftercare.
If your addiction is not too severe and you’re able to continue with your day-to-day commitments, then outpatient treatment is probably the best option for you. For more severe disorders inpatient treatment may be necessary to ensure a successful recovery. Medical supervision, especially when withdrawing from anti-anxiety medications, may also be required to ensure a safe recovery.
At The Cabin Singapore, we have years of experience treating all kinds of prescription drug abuse disorders. We offer expert counselling and support in a relaxed, confidential environment to make your recovery as pain free as possible. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.