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Many Web Sites Offer Opioids Without Prescriptions

Uncontrolled access may further increase misuse and dependence

WEDNESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Opioid medications are widely available on the Internet and can be obtained without prescriptions, according to a study in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Robert F. Forman, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted 47 Internet searches with a variety of opioid terms, including "codeine," "no prescription Vicodin" and "OxyContin." Links were coded as no prescription Web sites (NPWs) if they offered to sell opioids without prescriptions.

More than 50 percent of the links obtained were coded as NPWs on searches with terms such as "no prescription codeine" and "Vicodin." The researchers have created a database of over 300 opioid NPWs, and 65 percent of these were registered in the United States.

"Search engines such as Google make NPWs readily available to the public without any medical guidance or control," the study authors write. "This unregulated access is likely to increase use and contribute to abuse, dependence and overdose," especially among young people who are the heaviest users of the Internet.

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