Jan 232005
 
Authors: Jake Blumberg

There is drug access at the fingertips of computer users anywhere and everywhere there is an Internet connection.Procuring prescription drugs no longer requires face-to-face contact with a pharmacist at the local drugstore; instead, customers can now order their drugs from online pharmacies. T

his evolution of the pharmaceutical industry has already had an impact on a wide scope of issues concerning the use of prescription drugs."It has already impacted local pharmacies and chains that depend on walk-in customers," said George Skiffington, a former member of the board of directors for the Colorado Pharmacy Association. "It is taking b

usiness away from local pharmacies and economies, and as the industry grows and changes, I feel it will continue to have a strong effect."In addition to the economic effects on the pharmaceutical industry, online pharmacies are affecting other segments of the population, creating issues that are unique to the nature of online pharmacies. Regulatory age

ncies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being presented with new challenges regarding the evolution of online drug sales.Devin Koontz, public affairs specialist for the FDA's Denver district office, said the ease with which someone can obtain prescription drugs online is a problem that has come with the growth of the online pharmaceutical industry.e with which someone can obtain prescription drugs online is a problem that has come with the growth of the online pharmaceutical industry.

"The scary thing is that a 12-year-old who knows how to use a computer and can locate their parent's credit card can buy drugs online," Koontz said. "It is a piece of cake to locate a Web site to purchase prescription drugs. Out of thousands of Web sites, though, the FDA has only certified about 15 of them."

This would not be a problem if each Web site required a prescription to purchase drugs.

"Some Web sites do require prescriptions to purchase drugs, but others do not. The Web sites that don't are not really online pharmacies, as much as they are online drug dealers," Koontz said. "These Web sites tend to sell mostly narcotic drugs, drugs I refer to as lifestyle drugs. These sites sell these drugs at much higher prices than actual drugstores, but do not require the prescription."

A study released from the University of Michigan, published on www.i-newswire.com in an article on Tuesday, found that 7 percent of college students have used prescription drugs as stimulants for nonmedical purposes in their lifetimes, and 4 percent had done so in the past month.

Some experts, including Jim Webber, the assistant director at CSU's Center for Drug and Alcohol Education, feel these "online drug dealers" play a role in prescription drug abuse, although there are no statistics to prove this.

"Drug abuse is obviously a national issue not only on college campuses, but everywhere," Webber said. "The easier it becomes to procure drugs, the easier it is for individuals to abuse them."

CSU is dealing with the problem of student drug abuse with a variety of programs, including the cutting-edge "Day Four" program, a program that adapts a drug court model in a higher education system to decrease students' alcohol and drug use, especially in the case of high-risk students. The program's four phases include a judicial affairs hearing phase, a screening and assessment phase, a contract phase, and a completion phase.

"CSU is starting to become a national leader when it comes to dealing with student drug abuse," Webber said. "We are the only school with a Day Four program. Instead of dismissing students from school after their fourth offense, we allow them to stay in school, as long as they participate in the program. This allows us to help students who otherwise would be dismissed. It's been a very successful program."

Students who would like more information about CSU's drug and alcohol abuse programs can contact the Center for Drug and Alcohol Education at 491-1702.

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