Amid the ongoing opioid epidemic that has ravaged the United States, authorities are battling an unruly player in the illegal trade of deadly opioids — the internet. Now, many teens and adolescents are making clandestine online purchases using virtual currencies such as bitcoin to acquire deadly opioids either for personal use or to circulate among peers. Law enforcement officials are facing multiple hurdles in their endeavors to bust such online sales as these sites exist on the dark web, where young buyers can make anonymous purchases using special browsers.
Today, the teens of Generation Z spend much of their time shopping online for music, gadgets, videos, and other accessories. While their enhanced computer skills may certainly seem advantageous, many of them are misusing their ease with the keyboard. Purchasing prescription drugs online for non-medical use is a major concern in the country, especially for parents of teenagers.
Gabriela (name changed) from Santa Ana was one of the tech-savvy teenage girls in her neighborhood. Her parents were busy professionals who lavished her with the latest gadgets in town to make up for their absence at home. At school, she began dating someone with a heroin addiction, who slowly got her to try some shots of the drug. In no time, the white powder became Gabriela’s drug of choice. The euphoric feeling was beyond comparison, and she would crave for more of it. But when she broke off with him, her heroin supply took a big hit. In a bid to feed her addiction, Gabriela discovered that she could purchase a whole range of prescription drugs online, which produced similar effects in users.
“It simply takes three little clicks and I can have a 60-day supply of Xanax shipped to my door by the end of the week. The best part is, I don’t need to go to a doctor or a medical prescription. All I need is a credit card,” she said. Unfortunately, Gabriela belongs to an overwhelming majority of teens, who buy opioid pills illegally through smugglers, forged prescriptions and online pharmacies.
Dark web sales are a scary reality in America
The darknet drug markets came into the limelight, with the rise of Silk Road: the online market created by Ross Ulbricht. Though the market went off the internet in late 2013, there has been a spike in the numbers of imitators who are doing far more business than the original Silk Road. Although these online markets do not contribute much to the sales of heroin and cocaine, the real danger is the easy availability of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which are more potent and deadly. “The dark web has enabled distribution channels that previously didn’t exist,” said Kathryn Haun, a former prosecutor in San Francisco and the Justice Department’s first digital currency coordinator.
According to media reports, ever since AlphaBay opened its doors to the darknet community, it has become infamous for having more than 21,000 listings for opioids and over 4,100 for fentanyl and similar drugs, from dozens of dealers. In May 2017, federal authorities busted a drug trafficking ring for procuring fentanyl in bulk from China on the dark web. Aaron Shamo, the leader of the ring, was identified by many AlphaBay users as the vendor known as Pharma-Master, who had 8,332 verified sales on the site. Authorities said that the group was known to press the powder fentanyl into pills and sell them on the dark web as less dangerous drugs such as Xanax and Oxycodone.
Studies show that there are about 40,000 to 50,000 internet pharmacies that engage in the illegal sale of drugs and it only takes a couple of keywords and clicks to lead vulnerable teens to these sites. Purchasing prescription drugs online without a valid prescription is easy in today’s internet era. Additionally, “pharming parties” are a craze in the U.S. where adolescents are exposed to a wide variety of prescription drugs.
It’s high time that parents and guardians take sufficient measures to prevent their wards from falling into the addiction trap. Some of the options available for parents of teens who are addicted to buying online drugs are listed below:
- Talking to teens: Explaining the health hazards and dangers of buying illicit prescription drugs online in clear and simple terms so that they know the consequences of what they are getting into.
- Moving the computer out of their bedrooms: If talking to them doesn’t work, the next available option should be to remove the computer or laptop from their bedrooms, and place it in a common area for a fixed period of time to enable supervision.
- Checking computer’s browser history: The next best thing to do is to check the computer’s browser history. It may be viewed as spying or intruding into their personal space but parents have an obligation to investigate to keep their child safe, especially if they suspect that he/she is abusing drugs.
- Installing parental blocking software or internet filters: If the above-mentioned options fail, then parents need to block the web addresses and keywords of online pharmacies, which engage in sales of illegal prescription drugs to ensure their children’s safety.
Journey to recovery
Internet poses great risks for adolescents, who are falling prey to illegal addictive substances. This is a matter of serious concern for parents trying to safeguard their children from dangerous prescription drugs. It is unfortunate that many individuals consider prescription drugs safe, and disregard the directions given by their doctors. The truth is that any form of misuse or overdose is highly dangerous.
Most individuals fall prey to addiction more quickly than they might ever realize. The only way to break free from the clutches of deadly opioids is to undergo a specialized treatment for addiction at a professional drug addiction rehab center to combat the life-wrecking effects of such prescription medications.
Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone who is unable to discontinue the use of harmful substances despite the negative impact on his or her life. Our customized prescription drug addiction recovery programs at Sovereign Health of San Clemente are designed to treat the person holistically. If you or your loved one is battling addiction to any prescription drug, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to know about the most effective prescription drug rehab programs at our state-of-the-art centers.